30 March 2018 – El Mundo
Spain’s banks are still trying to lighten their balance sheets of the huge load left on them by the real estate crisis. Forecasts for this year indicate that they will manage to divest assets worth at least €40 billion including properties, foreclosed land and defaulted and non-performing loans.
Those are the estimates made by the consultancy firm Axis Corporate on the basis of operations that are currently being sounded out in the Spanish real estate sector. The figure includes transactions worth at least €9 billion by Sareb, sales of around €6 billion by Bankia and operations by CaixaBank and Banco Sabadell with a volume of close to €12 billion each. “To all of these operations, we have to add the retail operations that the servicers are currently undertaking”, explains José Masip, Real Estate Partner at Axis Corporate and coordinator of the Assets Under Management Observatory Report published recently by the company.
In 2017, sales of toxic assets linked to real estate exceeded €50 billion, “almost twice the €27.4 billion sold between 2012 and 2016”, says the report. Spanish entities are accelerating the clean up of this type of asset from their balance sheets to reduce their default rates and fulfil the European regulations that force entities to reduce the weight of non-performing assets to pre-crisis levels. Despite that and according to data from the consultancy firm JLL, the volume of non-performing assets with real estate collateral in the hands of the banks and Sareb amounts to around €200 billion: €80 billion in REOs (foreclosed assets) and €120 billion in NPLs (Non Performing Loans or doubtful credits).
Greater weight of funds
Both firms predict that the rate of sales seen last year will continue in 2018, above all due to the growing interest from international investment funds (…).
The main investment funds focused on the purchase of real estate assets in Spain are Bain Capital, Oaktree, EOS Spain, Apollo and Axactor, who are following in the footsteps of others such as Blackstone and Cerberus.
The latter two entities starred in the two most important operations of last year. In July, Santander sold a portfolio comprising 51% of the toxic property it had inherited following the purchase of Banco Popular to Blackstone in an operation worth €5.1 billion; meanwhile, in November, BBVA sold 80% of its real estate portfolio to Cerberus for around €4 billion. In a similar operation, also in 2017, Liberbank sold part of its toxic portfolio to the funds Bain and Oceanwood for €602 million.
The transactions were structured through the creation of joint ventures in all cases, in which the bank held a minority percentage of the company or servicer and the acquiring fund took over the bulk of the management. According to Emilio Portes, Director of the Portfolio Business at JLL for Southern Europe, “the structure offers entities a stake in the profits of the assets with upside potential at the same time as cleaning up their balance sheets and slightly improving their capital ratios. Similarly, it offers buyers more advantageous prices without limiting their strategy and management capacity”.
Indeed, in Axis’s opinion, those servicers are expected to be some of the main players in the market over the short and medium term. According to data from the consultancy firm, more than 80% of the assets under management are in the hands of five of them: Altamira (linked to Santander), Servihabitat (CaixaBank), Haya/Anida (controlled by Cerberus after the operation with BBVA), Aliseda/Anticipa (Blackstone) and Solvia (Sabadell). The outlook for this year points to greater concentration in the sector, “with the possible sale of some of the existing servicers”, in such a way that their specialisation and differentiation will be definitive.
Original story: El Mundo (by María Hernández)
Translation: Carmel Drake