2018: The Year that Blackstone was Crowned the King of the Spanish Real Estate Sector

17 December 2018 – Eje Prime

Blackstone wants it all and it wants it now. That is the sensation that the US investment fund, the new king of the Spanish real estate market, is transmitting throughout the real estate sector. Its portfolio is worth more than €20 billion after an accelerated period of purchases during 2018.

One of the objectives of the US fund manager has been, precisely, to expand its network in the Spanish real estate sector by entering markets such as the logistics segment. At the beginning of December, the company closed its latest operation in the country with the purchase of a logistics portfolio from Neinver for €300 million.

Nevertheless, the deal involving the giant Neinver is by no means the most significant operation that Blackstone has undertaken this year. Over the last twelve months, the group has taken control of Hispania, to grow in the hotel sector; it has acquired 80% of Testa, to manage thousands of rental homes, and in the logistics sector, it has accumulated 1 million m2 of space with the 55 assets from Neinver and the purchase of an industrial portfolio from Lar España.

Blackstone has disbursed almost €4 billion in the Spanish real estate sector this year, a figure that far exceeds the €127.5 million that it spent on its first investment in the domestic market in 2013. Moreover, that debut was not free from controversy, given that the group purchased 18 residential developments, containing 1,860 social housing units, which the Town Hall of Madrid sold the fund through the Municipal Housing and Land Company of Madrid (Emvsa).

Five years later, Blackstone is one of the largest owners of residential assets in Spain and the leader of the hotel sector. It leapt to first position in the hotel market ranking this year following its successful takeover of the Socimi Hispania. The company paid €1.99 billion for that vehicle, managed by Azora. With that operation, the fund added 46 assets and almost 13,150 rooms in Spain to a portfolio that it started to grow in 2017 with the purchase of HI Partners, the hotel arm of Banco Sabadell, for €630 million. In total, the manager owns 63 assets and almost 18,000 hotel rooms across Spain.

Hispania also provided Blackstone with residential assets worth €230 million, as well as 25 office buildings whose market value exceeds €600 million. Also in that segment, the company added the iconic Planeta office building in Barcelona to its portfolio during 2018, which it purchased from the Lara family in July for €210 million.

Spain, 20% of its global portfolio

Today, Spain accounts for 20% of Blackstone’s global investment. In total, the US firm owns property worth almost USD 120,000 million (€105,387 million) around the world. This real estate giant has become the largest unlisted real estate company in Spain (…).

The superiority of Blackstone’s portfolio in Spain with respect to those of the large domestic real estate firms is clear. The two largest players, Merlin and Colonial, are ranked within the top 15 Socimis in Europe and, yet, their portfolios are worth just half of that of the fund, at €11.785 billion and €11.19 billion, respectively.

Santander’s best friend

As well as mixing with other real estate players, Blackstone has made friends with some of the Spanish financial institutions. The banks, big losers in the previous real estate cycle, have worked hard over the last two years to place their property with the highest bidder, taking advantage of the new boom in the residential market.

In this way, in 2017, Banco Santander agreed with Blackstone the largest operation involving the sale of toxic assets from the real estate sector in the country. The fund manager purchased 51% of Popular’s property, a portfolio with €30,000 million in assets.

The relationship with the bank owned by the Botín family has been strengthened in 2018 with Project Quasar, the real estate firm created by the financial institution and the fund. The joint venture received a capital injection amounting to €300 million in May. Through this vehicle, the transfer of Popular’s assets is being carried out.

In order to place this property into circulation, as part of the operation in 2017, Blackstone also acquired the bank’s servicer, Aliseda, led by Eduard Mendiluce (…), who also manages the Socimi Albirana.

Albirana Properties is one of four residential Socimis that Blackstone currently has listed on the Alternative Investment Market (MAB). The others are Fidere Patrimonio, Corona Patrimonial and Torbel Investments.

Original story: Eje Prime (by Jabier Izquierdo)

Translation: Carmel Drake

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