From Greystar to GSA, a Who’s Who of Investors in Spain’s Market for Student Residences

27 August 2018

With returns of 5.5%, the student housing market has become the new El Dorado of the real estate market. A long list of foreign funds are beginning to invest in this sector in Spain, and the supply of accommodations is expected to rise by almost 10% up to 2019.

Anglo-Saxon funds and operators dominate the wave of foreign capital that is taking on the market for student residences, one that offers returns of 5.5% in Spain. Just in 2017, investments grew from 50 million to 600 million euros.

The supply of assets in this alternative market has increased by 3.5% since 2015, boasting 93,563 beds in the market at the close of last year. Forecasts expect the sector to grow by another 1.5% this year and up to 7.7% at the end of 2019, according to data from the consultancy JLL. Which are the funds that dominate the sector? And who set to join this latest rush for gold?

The high point of the new wave of international investment in Spain’s resis (student residences) was reached at the end of 2017. Until December, Resa was considered the king of the residential market for university students in the country. It was owned by for years by the firm Lazora (Azora) until the arrival of the joint venture formed by AXA Real Assets and CBRE Global Investment Partners funds, which made an offer for roughly 500 million euros. Subsequently, the company’s 37 assets, distributed among 33 buildings and four undeveloped plots of land, were taken over by the specialised operator Greystar, partner of AXA Real Assets and CBRE GI.

Greystar’s place at the top of the list remains firm, but a long list of other players are vying to take the top spot. The British operators GSA and Collegiate, and the Luxembourg fund manager Corestate all have ambitious plans for growth in Spain.

GSA will invest 300 million euros in new acquisitions in the Spanish market, as reported by EjePrime. The international student-accommodation giant expects to be managing 10,000 beds in Spain within five years’ time. For now, the company has two projects underway in Barcelona, ​​in a total investment of thirty million euros, and is already working on plans to enter the market in Madrid, as well as exploring other cities such as Salamanca along with regional capitals in the south and north of the country.

For its part, Collegiate allied itself with the Spanish group Early Capital at the beginning of the year to enter Barcelona. The operator will manage the student residences at the Finestrelles complex, in Esplugues de Llobregat, acquired by Early last autumn, its third asset after the ones it already owns in Madrid and Valencia. Now, the company is looking for opportunities in Bilbao, Malaga and Granada.

Corestate also flew in from Luxembourg. Like the more than 473,000 university students who arrive every year in the country, searching for accommodation, the fund is looking to enrol in the sector. After beginning work on its first two projects, in Madrid (inauguration in September) and Seville, it is now finalising the purchase of a plot of land on which it is to develop another 400 beds. The manager’s goal is to become one of the top three players in the sector by 2020, with more than a thousand beds spread across the country. The company is already analysing the acquisition of another half a dozen plots of land to attain the goal it set for itself.

The Student Hotel is another of the major European players that have begun to take a close look at Spain. The Dutch operator has announced plans to invest 240 million euros in Spain and has already acquired two assets in Barcelona and will debut its first project in Madrid in 2019.

The Spanish ‘resi’ listed on the MAB

Although much of the capital that is being allocated to the student residence market in Spain comes from abroad, the local players are also looking for their piece of the pie. The Lofttown and Syllabus, a specialised vehicle created by Urbania International, are two clear examples of emerging, local interest in the sector.

Lofttown started its journey in the picturesque neighbourhood of Gràcia in Barcelona. Presided over by Santiago de Cruilles, the company already has two more projects in the Catalan capital in which it invested 24 million euros, EjePrime reported. The company is also analysing a possible debut in other cities around the country, such as Madrid, Girona and Valencia.

For its part, Syllabus is already currently one of the most active investors in the student residence market. Created last April by Urbania, the vehicle expects to invest up to 200 million euros in the development of new student residences in Spain. The company hired the former CEO of Hill International, Jeffrey Sújar, and has already made its first acquisitions, in Valencia and Malaga.

In addition, the university market in Spain is undergoing such a boom that a company that focuses on the market is also listed on the local stock exchange. Student Properties debuted on the Mercado Alternativo Bursátil (MAB) last December. Currently, the company owns a single asset, located in the district of Salamanca in Madrid.

Other possible arrivals

During this year and, above all, the one that is coming, new players are expected to enter the market for university residences. On such arrival is the American giant CA Ventures, which has Spain squarely in its sights within a 500-million-euro European investment plan.

Other institutional investors that are interested in the market include the Belgian group Life, the American investment fund Round Hill and the British operator Amro. The latter is looking for a partner in the national market to invest up to €300 million to create a portfolio of 5,000 beds in southern Europe.

Original Story: EjePrime – Jabier Izquierdo

Translation: Richard Turner

 

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