26 August 2016 – Expansión
Mapfre, Mutua Madrileña and Catalana Occidente own the majority of the real estate in the insurance sector, whose total portfolio amounts to €4,475 million.
Insurance companies in Spain are accumulating a cushion of unrealised gains in their real estate investments amounting to €2,433 million, according to data from the Director General of Insurance and Pensions.
This amount is the difference between the value that the companies assigns these assets on their balance sheets and the market price of these assets, according to the mandatory appraisals that have to be performed periodically by independent appraisers.
These latest gains in the insurance sector are still well below the threshold of €4,226 million achieved in 2009, at the beginning of the burst of the real estate bubble.
Unrealised gains are recognised in the accounts of entities if the properties are sold at a profit. They are also included in the calculation to measure the solvency margin of the entities, which measures the firms’ strength to deal with unforeseen events using their uncommitted assets.
Insurance companies have traditionally invested in properties, given that they are a particularly appropriate asset for the long term over which they conduct their activity. They also generate regular income in the form of rental payments.
In addition, insurance companies have had to diversify their portfolios following the decrease in interest rates in recent months, which makes the investment strategy of these entities more complicated; they have traditionally focused on public debt, primarily in Spain.
Insurance companies are risk averse in their investments and in the face of this new panorama, they have made several purchases that have increased their real estate portfolios, particularly important for the Spanish capital firms Mapfre, Mutua Madrileña and Catalana Occidente, which own the majority of the sector’s total portfolio of €4,475 million, according to data from the Director General of Insurance and Pensions. In recent months, these three entities have been involved in several real estate purchases amounting to more than €250 million. (…).
The Mapfre Group, which has a presence in fifty countries, reported latent gains of €975 million in its accounts for 2015 on the basis of the book value of its total real estate portfolio (€2,267 million) and the market price (€3,242 million). Most (56% or €1,835 million) correspond to real estate investments, whilst the rest (44% or €1,406 million) are properties used by Mapfre. (…).
Meanwhile, Mutua has accumulated a piggy bank of unrealised real estate gains amounting to €462 million, with total assets worth €1,443 million at market prices and €981 million on the balance sheet. Its assets are concentrated in Madrid, where historically it has owned a handful of individual buildings on Paseo de la Castellana. (…).
Grupo Catalana Occidente’s investment in real estate amounts to €1,024 million, which includes unrealised gains amounting to €465 million. The insurance company, which has a presence in more than fifty countries, acquired a building measuring almost 4,000 sqm in the 22@ district in Barcelona in July.
Original story: Expansión (by E. del Pozo)
Translation: Carmel Drake