The Five Largest Banks Sold 19% More Properties In 2014

10 February 2015 – Cinco Días

Banks are stepping on the gas in the race to reduce the weight of properties on their balance sheets. Last year, Santander, BBVA, CaixaBank, Sabadell and Popular sold 86,726 properties in total, an increase of 18.7% on the 73,000 units sold during the previous year. However, this boost in the rate of sales has not been reflected on the revenue side.

In fact, revenue from this activity grew by only 6.4% from €10,699 million in 2013 to €13,619 million last year, due, in large part, to the reductions in the sales prices being applied by these entities. The pressure being placed on real estate assets by the significant provisions imposed by the Government in 2012 has allowed these five large companies to sell off 230,000 properties in just three years.

CaixaBank holds the record for the number of transactions – in 2014, it sold 23,400 of its own properties or 35,870 if we include those owned by developers that it supports. Some of this success was based on its commitment to the rental market, which accounted for €1,132 million of the €2,512 million generated from its foreclosed assets (or €5,432 million if we include sales conducted by third parties), whereas it takes an average of four years to sell foreclosed assets.

Overall, Caixabank generated losses from this activity amounting to €1,148 million, an impact that the bank hopes to mitigate between 2015 and 2016. This drive should be helped by the Texan fund TPG, which now controls the entity’s real estate company Servihabitat.

Another one of the entities that recorded the best results in this field in 2014 was BBVA, which opted to retain control of Anida, its real estate platform, contrary to the general trend towards outsourcing. BBVA sold off 23,069 properties in total, including both its own properties and those owned by the developers it finances and whose homes it sold; in total, it recorded income of €1,932 million.

As a result, BBVA generated 18% more cash in 2014 than in the previous year. The company says that it has noted “more buoyant demand” in “an environment in which prices are slowly stabilising”. The entity, chaired by Francisco González, celebrates the fact that its losses in this area decreased to €876 million in 2014 from €1,252 million in 2013. And explains that this improvement is based on a lower volume of outstanding properties that need to be cleaned up and the “the launch onto the market of foreclosed assets with a smaller adverse effect”.

Banco Sabadell follows next in the ranking; it has also decided to retain control of its real estate company, Solvia, and is considering a potential IPO, as it observes a gradual improvement in the market. The entity sold 16,172 properties in 2014, both owned and third party properties, for which it generated turnvoer of €2,744 million; in both cases these figures represented a decrease of 12% on the significant number of sales it recorded in 2013.

Banco Santander, which recorded strong sales during the early years, reduced its clearance rate to 11,615 properties last year, however the higher value of the remaining assets allowed it to still generate revenues above the €2,000 million it achieved in 2013.

Finally, Banco Popular is one of the entities that seems to have benefitted most from the outsourcing of its real estate platform, Aliseda, which is now controlled by a consortium of funds comprising Kennedy Wilson and Värde Partners. The entity, chaired by Ángel Ron, increased its sales from 3,900 properties in 2013 to 8,600 units last year, and doubled the corresponding turnover, from €732 million in 2013 to €1,503 million in 2014.

“We would not be able to increase sales at this rate if the provisions were not sufficient”, reflected the bank’s CEO, Francisco Gómez at the most recent results presentation, where he stated that these provisions have enabled the entity to account for “the properties at market prices”. As a result, the number two at Popular hopes to “increase the value generated from real estate sales over the next few quarters”.

Original story: Cinco Días (by Juande Portillo)

Translation: Carmel Drake