Henderson, IBA, Has & Drago Bid For Gas Natural’s RE Assets

19 October 2016 – Expansión

The bidding for Gas Natural’s real estate gems in Madrid is entering its final phase. The British fund manager Henderson Global Investors, IBA Capital, through its Socimi Zambal, the US investment fund Has Capital and the Spanish management company Drago Capital have all submitted binding offers for the four corporate office complexes that the energy firm has put up for sale in the Spanish capital.

The assets include: the group’s operating headquarters in Madrid, located on Avenida de San Luis 77 (pictured above); a property on Avenida de América 38; the Acanto complex, at number 11 on the same street; and the Antonio López complex on Calle Antonio López 193.

The investors have submitted offers valuing the assets, which have a combined surface area of 57,000 sqm in office space and 1,695 parking spaces, at around €300 million, according to sources in the sector.

The gas firm, which engaged the real estate consultancy firms CBRE and Cushman & Wakefield to sell its main real estate assets in Madrid this summer, plans to chose the candidate during the second half of November and close the deal before the end of the year.

The firm, chaired by Isidro Fainé, is negotiating with these four investors regarding the option of selling the four office complexes in a single operation or awarding the assets in batches. In this sense, both IBA Capital and Has Capital have already submitted offers for all of the assets as well as for different batches, an option that the other candidates may also consider.

The operation, whereby Gas Natural will sell the properties but continue as the tenant, will allow the firm to raise funds without needing to move its employees or look for new offices.

The operation represents the largest sale & leaseback deal in the segment in recent years. (…). The volume of sale & leaseback operations reached its peak between 2007 and 2010, but has slowed down since then. Nevertheless, the formula has been used recently by companies such as Telefónica and Eroski. (…).

The future of sale & leaseback operations

However, new accounting legislation, which no longer allows property sales that are subsequently rented out to be accounted for as off balance sheet financing structures, may put a stop to this option of real estate asset optimisation.

Specifically, IFRS 16 requires companies to recognise rental commitments as debt, except those that have a term of less than a year or relate to low value assets. This standard, which will replace the standard currently in force, IAS 17, eliminates the dual accounting model for lessees, which differentiates between financing lease contracts, which are recorded on balance sheet, and operating lease contracts, which do not require future lease commitments to be recognised (on balance sheet).

Although the new law does not enter into force until 2019, companies are obliged to analyse their lease contracts in advance and make new estimates, which must be updated on a regular basis.

Original story: Expansión (by R. Arroyo and M. A. Patiño)

Translation: Carmel Drake