Merlin, Hispania And Axia Could Raise More Than €1,340M

5 May 2015 – Expansión

The real estate investment companies are trading at record highs, and (their share prices) still have potential (to increase), say analysts.

The real estate sector is back in fashion. The current liquidity surplus, together with the scarcity of alternative investments, minimum interest rates and low financing costs have led to the resurgence of properties. In this way, the (share prices of the) 4 real estate companies (Socimis) that are listed on the stock exchange (another 5 are listed on the Alternative Investment Market or MAB) have risen by 20% on average during the year and are trading close to record highs. And yet, all of them have “buy” recommendations from the majority of the analysis firms that follow them.

Gaining in size

In this context, Merlin Properties, Hispania (which is not strictly a Socimi, but which has a similar profile) and Axia Real Estate are seeking to raise capital to fully benefit from their investment opportunities. The three entities could raise more than €1,340 million.

The first one to take the plunge was Merlin, which announced a capital increase of 64.6 million shares (50% of the volume in circulation) on 15 April amounting to a value of €613.8 million. The new shares are being issued at €9.50, which represents a discount of 27% on the trading price on the day before the announcement. The subscription period ended on 2 May. The new shares from the capital increase, which are underwritten by UBS, Credit Suisse and Goldman Sachs, amongst other entities, will begin to trade on 12 May. “The transaction makes sense because we believe that the current upwards cycle in terms of revenue and ratings may last for 2 or 3 more years”, say sources at Banco Sabadell. The analysis firm advises investors to “buy” these shares, as do the other five analysts that cover this security. “We believe in the experience and know-how of the management team at Merlin to “play” the upwards property cycle and gain a profit”, they add.

One of Merlin’s main strengths is its size. Analysts calculate that the company may have almost €1,400 million to invest. “It is able to access large transactions that other companies cannot, such as the purchase of Testa”, says Juan Moreno, analyst at Ahorro Corporación. That transaction that would have the blessing of the market if, as it being discussed, the acquisition of 30% of the company is agreed for €500 million, without the payment of a premium over the NAV (net asset value).

Meanwhile, last week Hispania increased its capital by €337 million through an accelerated placement amongst institutions, without the right to preferential subscriptions.

The company, in which George Soros holds a stake, tried to lead the purchase of Realia last March. In the end, Carlos Slim was the “cat that got the cream”, through FCC, but experts liked the design of the operation. “Hispania is innovative in the transactions it proposes. For example, it seeks to enter (companies) by purchasing debt, restructuring that debt and then buying the company at a lower price”, says Moreno. The expert also highlights the recent alliance signed between Hispania and Barceló to create a Socimi to invest in the hotel sector.

Three of the four analyst firms that follow the security advise investors to “buy”. In terms of Axia, the Socimi has announced its intention to increase its capital by 36 million shares (100% of its capital) for a value of €396 million. For the time being, the market does not know whether the current shareholders will have preferential subscription rights. But, in any case, the experts like the security, which has increased in value by 10.77% during the year. Two of the three firms that follow it advise investors to ”buy” and the third advise investors to “hold”. The share price may increase by 8.7% to €13.10.

Original story: Expansión (by C. Sekulits)

Translation: Carmel Drake

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