11 November 2016 – El Confidencial
Banco Santander and the other shareholders of URO Property, the Socimi that owns 755 of the Cantabrian-based entity’s branches, have formally launched the sale of the company, with a view to finding a white knight to acquire most of the Socimi’s shares.
According to three sources close to the operation, Citi was given the mandate to open an organised process on 19 September, with a view to closing the operation before the end of the first half of 2017.
The US entity had already been engaged in May to analyse the possible alternatives for a change in the shareholder structure and now that interest from sovereign and pension funds, insurance companies, fixed income investors and several real estate companies, has been confirmed, the formal process has been launched.
Citi, Santander and URO all declined to comment on the announcement.
The Socimi is attractive because it represents a low risk investment, with guaranteed returns and the certainty of dividend distributions. Those characteristics make it an object of desire for large sovereign funds and very conservative vehicles, the main candidates that Santander and its partner shareholders are targetting for this divestment process.
In addition, URO’s shareholders are open to exploring formulas such as the one that Santander has just successfully carried out with Metrovacesa, including merging the Socimi with another large landlord of commercial premises, according to the sources.
In addition to the activity undertaken by the bank chaired by Ana Botín, several other entities have also sold off large batches of branches in recent years, including BBVA, which sold 800 branches to Tree Inversiones Inmobiliarios, now part of Merlin, and Sabadell, which sold a portfolio of 228 branches and 133 parking spaces to Moor Park, which, in turn, subsequently sold the portfolio to the Mexican businessman Moisés El-Mann.
URO is currently very limited in terms of its business operations, due to the clauses included in the bond issue, amounting to €1,300 million, which it undertook in the spring of 2015, a month after it sold 381 of Santander’s branches to Axa.
Those two operations were a complete success from a financial point of view because they granted the Socimi the stability that it had been seeking for so long, but they also reduced its room for maneouvre, as the entity was forced to use the rental income from 666 of Santander’s branches to guarantee the issue, and also pledge another 80 branches (…).
Santander and CaixaBank will continue to hold stakes in URO
According to URO, the net book value of its current portfolio of branches amounts to €1,585 million, based on its most recent official accounts corresponding to the month of June, whilst its market capitalisation on the Alternative Investment Market (MAB) amounts to €197.5 million.
The decision to activate a formal sales process represents the company’s response to the desire expressed by several of its shareholders to exit from its share capital, now that the “lock-up period” has come to an end.
URO’s creditor entities, led by Santander and CaixaBank (which hold stakes of 22.78% and 14.5%, respectively), decided to execute their debts and take over control of the company in 2014. Both plan to continue as shareholders in the Socimi following the sale, although they are hoping to take advantage of this move to adopt smaller positions.
Other shareholders include BNP Paribas, one of the entities that wants to sell, which controls 9.18%; whilst the former shareholders of URO, Sun Capital (renamed Atisha Holding) and Pearl Group (now Phoenix Life) hold 18.92% and 14.90%, respectively. Other entities, such as Barclays and several hedge funds, which hold stakes of less than 5%, also want to exit. (…).
Original story: El Confidencial (by Ruth Ugalde)
Translation: Carmel Drake