30 November 2016 – Voz Populi
The real estate arm of CaixaBank, Servihabitat, is preparing for a possible change in its shareholders. The Italian private equity group Investindustrial (which is headquartered in Barcelona) is holding conversations with TPG regarding the possible acquisition of the 51% stake that the Texan fund owns in Servihabitat. For the time being, no offer has been put on the table, but several financial sources consulted are convinced that a deal will be reached soon and that the group, owned by the Bonomi family, is well positioned to take over the reins of the real estate company.
Investindustrial already has a lot of roots in Spain and above all in Cataluña. The same sources add that Carlo Bonomi, the CEO of the firm, has a good relationship with Isidro Fainé. Both groups completed one of the largest private equity operations between 2009 and 2012, with the purchase of the PortAventura park from Criteria for almost €200 million.
The fund created by the Bonomi family also controls the rental car company Goldcar in Spain and the ambulance firm Emeru. In recent years, it has held stakes in Applus, Euskatel and Recoletos, amongst others. In fact, Investindustrial was one of the groups that submitted a bid for the takeover of RCS (owner of Unidad Editorial), but it was pipped at the post by Cairo Communication.
The possible acquisition of a stake in Servihabitat comes at a time when the financial sector is rethinking its real estate partnerships: Santander has engaged Citi to handle its purchase of Altamira; Popular is negotiating with Värde Partners and Kennedy Wilson to regain control over Aliseda; and Servihabitat has also been the target of rumours in the market. Nevertheless, the sources consulted explain that the Catalan group does not want to regain ownership of 100% of its real estate company, but rather is looking for a new partner whose plans for Servihabitat fit better with its own vision than that of TPG.
This change in strategy has not arisen due to personal differences, but rather due to the new circumstances in the financial sector. When the banks sold their stakes in their real estate companies in 2013, they did so because they needed capital; and they were very successful in this regard. In the case of Servihabitat, TPG paid €310 million for its 51% stake.
Change in strategy
Nevertheless, with the passage of time, the banks are seeing a slowdown in the rate of property sales and are incurring expenses on their income statements as a result of all of the commissions that they are having to pay their property managers.
A priori, the investment in Servihabitat does not fit with the type of investments that Investindustrial usually undertakes. It traditionally backs sectors such as services, consumer and industrial. But, sources in the sector regard Servihabitat as a classic private equity investment, since it is a cash generating machine with potential to grow through corporate operations. In fact, Servihabitat is one of the candidates in the running to buy Portugal’s largest bad bank.
The company generated EBITDA of €111 million last year. Its consolidated profit amounted to almost €44 million.
Original story: Voz Populi (by Jorge Zuloaga)
Translation: Carmel Drake