13 July 2017 – Voz Pópuli
El Corte Inglés is preparing to sell its stores in the Parquesur shopping centre, in Leganés (Madrid), according to financial sources consulted by this newspaper, under the framework of its asset sale policy to reduce debt. The group chaired by Dimas Gimeno occupies two spaces in Parquesur – which is owned by Unibail Rodamco – one for fashion and accessories, and the other for sports and leisure goods and the supermarket. El Corte Inglés assured this newspaper that no operations are currently active and that, in any case, it has remained as the tenant of other real estate assets despite divesting them.
According to real estate sources, the retail leader in Spain plans to sell various assets worth up to €150 million. Its portfolio of assets for sale includes not only the stores in Parquesur, but also others located in Burgos, Valencia and Madrid.
Leading this process is a stalwart of the Spanish company, Carlos Muñóz Gordobil, whom the sources consulted define as “a tough nut” and “old school operator”. The real estate sources argue that the prices that El Corte Inglés is asking for these buildings, which it considers to be non-essential, are too high.
The same sources indicate that El Corte Inglés’ real estate business is still weighed down by the purchase it agreed in 2014 to buy a plot on Paseo de la Castellana, adjacent to the centre that the group has in the area, which Adif sold through an auction. According to these sources, who are experts in the real estate sector, the figure paid by El Corte Inglés, €136 million, was “over the top”, as it exceeded the second highest offer submitted by more than €40 million. According to El Corte Inglés, the purpose of that purchase was to create its largest shopping centre in Spain, exceeding the one located in El Bercial (Getafe), which has a surface area of 180,000 m2.
In 2015, El Corte Inglés recorded profits of €158.13 million, up by 33.9% compared to the previous year and its turnover grew by 4.3%, to reach €15,219.84 million. Although the company has improved its revenues and has significantly decreased its debt, it still has to make some changes to facilitate negotiations with its creditor banks and secure better financing conditions, explained the financial sources consulted.
Four years ago, the retail group held debt amounting to €5,000 million, which put its business model in danger, and which essentially force it into a restructuring process in 2013. The sale of 10% of its capital to a sheik in Qatar, agreed in 2015, for €1,000 million; the sale of 51% of its financing arm to Santander in 2013; and the issue of promissory notes amounting to €300 million at the end of 2015, and of bonds through Hipercor, are just some of the measures taken by El Corte Inglés to reduce its debt to below €4,000 million.
Original story: Voz Pópuli (by Alberto Ortín)
Translation: Carmel Drake