2 June 2015 – Expansión
Election fallout / International funds are worried about the impact that the new (political) environment will have on their purchases of: social housing, problem mortgages and portfolios of homes from banks.
The rise of Podemos in the municipal and regional elections could clog the bank’s real estate drain once again. After years of provisions and foreclosures, the financial sector had started to sign large transactions in recent months, and whereby reduce the high burden of property on their balance sheets. Transactions worth more than €10,000 million are currently underway. However, some potential investors have begun to rethink their strategies and fully expecting that the projects that are already underway will be affected, at least in terms of price.
The fears of the larger international funds revolve around what might happen in three specific segments: subsidised social housing (VPO homes), where Blackstone and Goldman Sachs have been very active; the suspension of evictions; and the possibility that new measures will be taken to deal with vacant homes.
Subsidised social housing
Subsidised homes were one of the assets that the funds that first arrived in Spain expressed interest in. Blackstone and Goldman purchased more than 8,000 homes of this kind between 2013 and 2014 from the Community of Madrid, the Town Hall of Madrid, FCC, Sareb and Bankia.
Now, after a couple of years managing these real estate portfolios, the funds fear that the expected arrival of Ahora Madrid in the Town Hall will change the rules of the game and may even cause them to reverse their purchases (i.e. exit their investments) (…).
The second wave of concerns relates to mortgage portfolios, which were expected to generate a large volume of transactions during 2015. A priori, financial sources indicate that it would be easier if there was no legislative change until the general elections, in case Podemos gains strength as an alternative Government. However, the mere uncertainty in this regard means that funds are going to really take care with the purchase of any portfolio.
Blackstone is again the fund that is most exposed to these assets, since in 2014 it purchased a portfolio of problem mortgages from Catalunya Banc amounting to €6,400 million. This acquisition involved around 50,000 mortgage contracts, of which 57% were overdue or non-performing; and more than half were located in the province of Barcelona, where the possible arrival of BComú – which groups together Podemos, Esquerra Unida and other left-wing parties – generates real real amongst international investors.
Following this transaction, agreed in 2014, Bankia and BMN have put their own problem mortgage portfolios up for sale.
Sources close to the funds explain that eviction is the last resort used for this type of portfolio, and that the main objective is to reduce the debt so that loans become more affordable or “daciones en pago” in exchange for holding onto the home. But, they add, that the legal concept of eviction helps them to put pressure on certain delinquent borrowers, something they would have to stop doing based on the election promises of some of the political parties.
Tax on vacant homes
Given the uncertainty surrounding the general elections, a more immediate fear is the new taxes that local councils in the major regional capital cities may introduce: such as the tax on vacant homes. That would certainly have an effect of some of the loan portfolios that the banks have put on the market in recent months. (…)
Original story: Expansión (by J. Zuloaga)
Translation: Carmel Drake