17 July 2017 – El País
After the abrupt collapse of the real estate sector following the burst of the bubble, it was five years before capital returned to the industry. And it did so five years ago, when the recovery in the sector was based essentially on investment funds with foreign names, which bought anything ranging from portfolios of properties from the administrations to buildings that were weighing down heavily on the banks. One of the funds that arrived then was the KKH Capital Group. Rather it made its return to Spain then.
The instrument was led by the person who until 2007 had been the CEO of Renta Corporación, Josep María Farré. He returned to Spain after a six-year break with the intention of building a portfolio of properties exceeding €300 million. Five years later, and after joining the US fund Perella Weinberg, the resulting alliance, KKH Property Investors has now spent €500 million and is considering expanding its financial muscle to continue acquiring buildings.
After undertaking acquisitions in Barcelona and the Balearic Islands, KKH recently entered the Spanish capital. There, it purchased the former headquarters of the Caja Madrid Foundation, in Plaza de las Descalzas, which it is going to convert into a 170-room luxury hotel. The building, which has a surface area of 25,000 m2, spread over seven floors and another two parking floors, could be operational by 2019 (…).
Buying and renovating
This acquisition fits perfectly into the company’s business model, which, unlike other funds, does not just sit back and wait for its properties to appreciate in value, but rather seeks to increase their value through renovation and, in most cases, changes of use. On paper, the model is similar to that employed by Renta Corporación, but sources in the sector highlight a significant difference: the real estate company used to try to hold onto properties for the shortest time possible. When the crisis hit, that logic became impossible.
The same operation that it undertook in Madrid – the transformation of a property into a large luxury hotel – was frustrated in Barcelona with the election of Ada Colau as mayor of that city. The group had acquired the iconic Deutsche Bank building, on Paseo de Gràcia, for around €90 million, according to market sources. That establishment was going to be managed by Four Seasons and was going to be another magnet to attract new investment to the area. In parallel, KKH was developing other hotels in the city. For example, it is still planning to open an establishment close the Santa Caterina market, under the Edition brand from Marriott International and the businessman Ian Schrager, by the end of this year.
Not in vain, hotels are one of the most sought-after assets at the moment, given the pull of the tourist sector. According to the consultancy firm CBRE, last year, investors spent €1,706 million on these assets in Spain after a record year in 2015, when they spent more than €2,000 million.
Nevertheless, when Colau’s team came to power, KKH withdrew from the hotel after her party opposed the project during its campaign and decided to build luxury apartments in its place. Barcelona’s new hotel plan, which prohibits new openings in the centre, has forced the fund to shift its focus. “New hotel projects in Barcelona are complicated. The areas where they can be built are not ideal for such use, but we have the vocation to continue operating in the city. We will adapt to the political situation and I am sure that we will continue”, said Enric Venancio, CEO at KKH. He added that besides Madrid, another key destination for the firm is Ibiza, where it started work last year on the construction of a luxury establishment.
In addition to hotels and luxury homes – (…) this fund has a third string to its bow, in the commercial segment. In an unprecedented operation in the Catalan capital, the fund is immersed in the conversion of the former Montecarlo hotel, on La Rambla, into a commercial space. (…).
Original story: El País (by Lluís Pellicer)
Translation: Carmel Drake