11 July 2016 – Expansión
Spain’s real estate companies are making a name for themselves on the European map, particularly thanks tothe merger of Merlin and Metrovacesa. The Socimis and funds are also boosting the sector and are throwing themselves into the tertiary business. (…).
Following its merger with Metrovacesa, Merlin now owns assets with a gross value (GAV) of €9,317 million and a net value of €4,927 million. This portfolio of assets have catapulted it into the top ten ranking of the largest listed Socimis in Europe, all of which have a GAV of more than €9,000 million. The largest three are Unibail Rodamco (€37,800 million) Klepierre (€22,100 million) and Land Securities (€18,700 million). Merlin is ranked eighth. Unlike its European counterparts – who are much more specialised but who have a presence in more countries – Merlin is focusing its activity in Spain, although it does own some assets in Portugal and has a more diversified portfolio.
The operation between Merlin and Metrovacesa “is a clear sign of the professionalization of the sector”, according to Humphrey White, CEO of the consultancy firm Knight Frank (…).
Other, smaller Socimis are also competing in the race to grow in size, such as Axiare, Hispania Real and Lar España, which have also gained prominence in the sector. A tier below, we find other Socimis such as Cuatro, Promorent and Mercal Inmuebles, which are listed on the specialist MAB market.
“One of the first effects of this merger is that the other Socimis are going to have to following the path adopted by Merlin and carry out operations of this kind, so as to place themselves at the same level in the market”, says Borja Ortega, Director of Capital Markets at JLL.
Compared with Merlin, the other Socimis in Spain are much smaller in terms of asset values. Specifically, Hispania, with GAV of €1,500 million; Lar, with €1,050 million; and Axiare with around €900 million, are above or near the threshold of €1,000 million, but light years away from the €9,300 million held by the newly merged Merlin. The large players in the capital markets, such as Blackstone and Fidelity, are demanding liquidity (in terms of share trading) from the listed companies to invest in their share capital. (…).
In this way, the Socimis are facing up to companies with a long history in the real estate sector, such as Colonial, which specialises in prime offices in Barcelona, Madrid and Paris, with assets worth almost €7,000 milion. Colonial, chaired by Juan José Brugera, is currently evaluating the possibility of investing in other European cities, particularly offices in prime locations. The company, one of the real estate companies that survived the burst of the bubble, has just approved the distribution of its first dividend since 2008. It has also launched an investment plan whereby it will allocate €400 million to the acquisition of real estate assets and undertake a €265 million capital increase.
In addition to the Socimis, another major player that has burst onto the new property map with a vengeance is Pontegadea, the investment arm of the founder of the textile empire Inditex, Amancio Ortega.
Pontegadea’s assets, worth more than €6,000 million, are located across a dozen countries in Europe, America and Asia. The company invests in buildings where some of its Zara mega-stores are opening in major cities, such as New York, Boston and Milan. In addition, it has purchased unique office buildings in prime areas such as Torre Picasso in Madrid, considered its largest single investment to date (€400 million). It also owns hotels, such as the one it has just purchased in New York for €68 million from the fund KHP Capital Partners. (…).
Original story: Expansión (by G.Martínez and R.Arroyo)
Translation: Carmel Drake