Blackstone Crowns its Position as the Largest Property Owner in Spain

18 September 2018 – Cinco Días

Blackstone likes Spain. And specifically, the Spanish real estate market. In recent years, the fund manager has made several large purchases linked to property in the country, displaying its enormous financial capacity to handle operations of any size.

In fact, the fund has now become the largest real estate owner in Spain, where it owns assets worth more than €20 billion, according to the figure compiled by Europa Press, placing it well ahead of the largest Socimis, such as Merlin (€11.785 billion) and Colonial (€11.19 billion).

The fund quickly saw an opportunity with the Testa operation, given that some of the shareholders wanted to exit the company, such as the clear case of Merlin, and the willingness of Santander and BBVA to sell.

The acquisition of 50.01% of Testa Residencial from Merlin, BBVA and Santander for €948 million – an operation that is still open to the other shareholders – followed the very recent purchase of the Socimi Hispania, a transaction worth more than €1.9 billion. Initially, Blackstone agreed to acquire the 16% stake owned by the investor George Soros, and then it launched a takeover bid for the rest of the company. In that case, it acquired 46 hotels, which were added to the 15 it had already acquired from Sabadell and whereby the largest owner of rooms in Spain was born.

In July, Blackstone acquired a logistics portfolio from the Socimi Lar España for €120 million. And recently, it was revealed that Blackstone and Centerbridge had teamed up to submit an offer for Santander’s headquarters in Boadilla del Monte (Madrid) amounting to €3 billion, in a bid that ended at midnight yesterday.

In Spain, Blackstone’s largest operation was undoubtedly the purchase from Santander of 51% of Popular’s real estate business for €5 billion. But that was not its only bank-related deal. It also acquired the portfolio linked to the property of the now extinct entity CatalunyaCaixa. The fund created the company Anticipa Real Estate to manage those toxic assets and it has been putting some of those foreclosed homes up for rent through its various Socimis: Albirana and Torbel (flats acquired from Sabadell), which are both listed on the Alternative Investment Market (MAB).

Moreover, one of Blackstone’s first operations was also one of the most contested politically by the leftist groups, when in 2014, it acquired 1,800 social housing properties from the Town Hall of Madrid for around €130 million – those homes currently form part of the portfolio owned by the Socimi Fidere.

Blackstone entered the property market in Spain in 2014 on the hunt for bargains following the crisis, firstly focusing on bank portfolios. But the recent acquisitions of Hispania and Testa take the US giant in another direction. There is enormous liquidity in the market, which has given a great investment capacity to these funds. Now, it is sounding out opportunities in which to invest in through its funds in real estate as an alternative to public debt with higher returns.

This New York-based firm, which is led by Stephen Schwarzman (pictured above) as its President and CEO, is the largest manager of real estate funds in the world, with $19.4 billion in assets under management, according to its results for the first half of the year.

Original story: Cinco Días

Translation: Carmel Drake

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