3 August 2015 – Expansión
The CEO of the British real estate consultancy Savills says that he expects the Spanish market to attract a lot of capital from Asian investors over the next 18 months.
In 1980, Jeremy Helsby started work at the real estate consultancy firm Savills, renowned for selling some of the most exclusive properties in the world. The company, which is 155 years old, first made a name for itself selling homes in the English countryside, but soon expanded its focus. At the end of 2014, Savills advised on the sale of the Gherkin, the cucumber shaped skyscraper in the City of London, which was sold to the Brazilian millionaire Joseph Safra for GBP 726 million.
Helsby…has been CEO at Savills since 2008 and was the architect of the international expansion of the firm, which has become one of the largest in the world, competing alongside US firms, such as CBRE and JLL…The company now has 20,000 employees around the world and more than half of its sales are generated outside of the UK.
According to Helsby, the modus operandi of international investors has changed. Their priority now is to diversify their investments and they are generally expanding beyond their own local markets.
In this context, Spain is one of the three or four most interesting markets in the world for major international investors, after the UK, Germany and France. “Investors come to Spain because they consider that the market here offers good opportunities and because assets are cheap”, explains the CEO, whilst noting that the first investors to arrive were the opportunistic funds, above all the US giants, including Apollo and Blackstone. “Investors have 18 months left to buy in Spain and we expect to see a lot of money arriving from Asia during this period”.
In his opinion, Spain’s two largest cities – Madrid and Barcelona – will be the key targets for investment, since they have “attractive properties, strong businesses and low prices following the economic crisis”.
These price reductions, which were as high as 40% in certain parts of Spain, have attracted a lot of investors. “Investors are buying because they think assets are cheap and because they expect there to be an increase in demand. The economy is growing. If we take a 5-year view, these assets may be sold a good prices”, he says. The question is who will buy the assets in the next round. “That is the million dollar question”, acknowledges Helsby. “Most of the recent investments have been made by opportunistic funds, but in three years time, they are going to want to sell their assets and it is not clear yet who will take them over”.
This flood of foreign investment in Spain has led Savills to reopen its office in Barcelona. “Our customers are asking us to help them buy properties there”, says Helsby, who took the decision to close the office in the Cataluñan capital in 2007 because “the market was dead”, he recalls. “It is a sign of confidence in the Spanish market and we hope to earn a lot of money there”.
Savills recorded turnover of GBP 1,000 million in 2014, up 19% and its profit before tax grew by 21% to €84.7 million. Last year, Helsby earned GBP 2.2 million (€2.8 million) for his work as the head of the firm, up by 33% from the previous year. (…).
Original story: Expansión
Translation: Carmel Drake