Amancio Ortega’s Real Estate Offensive

2 February 2015 – Expansión

The owner of Zara has bought the former headquarters of Prisa. The founder of Inditex has allocated €1,215 million to the expansion of his non-residential asset portfolio in Spain since 2010 and is now the second largest investor, behind Merlin.

Amancio Ortega’s scouts are back out on the streets of Spain. The founder of Inditex resumed his real estate activity in Spain last week, with the purchase of Gran Vía 32, the former headquarters of Prisa, which is now being refurbished. The property will house the largest store of the fashion retailer Primark in Spain.

Pontegadea, owned by Ortega, acquired the building from Drago Capital for €400 million.

Through this transaction, the owner of Zara, who was advised by Aguirre Newman and Broseta, reactivated his real estate offensive in Spain. Since 2010, Ortega has spent €1,215 million on the expansion of his non-residential assets in Spain (office buildings and high street shops). Pontegadea holds these properties to benefit from their rental yields and to generate profits from their sale.

This outlay makes Ortega the second largest investor in non-residential assets during this period, according to data provided by Real Capital Analytics. He is exceeded only by Merlin Properties, the largest Socimi currently listed in Spain.

Pontegadea has also acquired properties overseas during this time, in the USA, Canada, France, Italy, Germany and Great Britain, amongst others. Altogether, the book value of his investment property amounted to €4,207 million in 2013, the latest data available. His investments outside of Spain amounted to €2,536 million.

The market value of these assets is unknown, but sources close to Ortega estimate it amounts to €6,500 million.

Most of his spending in recent years has been used to buy office buildings, as well as retail outlets and hotels. Pontegadea diversifies its risk across a variety of non-residential assets and has a more stable profile than other companies that invest only in a single segment, such as offices.

The businessman always acquires assets that have intrinsic value, due to their strategic location and because they have first-rate tenants. This allows him to generate an average annual yield of between 4% and 7%, according to market sources, at a time when interest rates are at around 0%.

In some cases, the Galician businessman’s company leases his non-residential assets to the various Inditex brands. Nevertheless, he also leases stores to Inditex’s competitors, such as in the case of the former headquarters of Prisa, which will be leased to Primark. His annual rental income amounts to around €200 million.

Pontegadea pays for the real estate assets it acquires with liquidity that it obtains from the clothing business, above all with dividends from Inditex. Ortega is the majority shareholder of the clothing business; he holds 58% of its total equity. The businessman also relies on debt from credit institutions to pay for his purchases. At the end of 2013, bank debt amounted to €748 million. The real estate company had mortgaged assets amounting to €1,237 million to support this debt.

“Ortega diversifies his assets and has a significant international presence in another sector. As an investor, he benefits by acquiring properties at the best time and he almost always pays in cash” and therefore buys cheap, explains Manual Romera, Director of the Financial Sector at IE Business School.

Pontegadea paid €400 million for the Torre Picasso, when valuations of the Madrid skyscraper prior to the sale were rounding the €800 million mark. Ortega’s offer prevailed over the one made by the American real estate giant Tishman Speyer, owned by the business tycoons Robert Tishman and Jerry Speyer. Pontegadea took ownership of the skyscraper that Esther Koplowitz, shareholder of FCC and the former owner, was loath to sell.

With the Torre Picasso, he is guaranteed rental yields of around 6%.

The real estate company is led by Roberto Cibeira and headquartered in A Coruña. The Board is support by Pontegadea executives in each country, including Marcos Fernández (US) and Manuel Criado (UK). In addition, Ortega engages legal counsel (Broseta) and real estate advisors, such as Aguirre Newman, which advised on the purchases of Torre Picasso, Gran Vía 32 and Rio Tinto.

Original story: Expansión (by Gemma Martínez)

Translation: Carmel Drake