GSA With ‘High Honours’ in Spain: Investments of €300 million for New Acquisitions

2 November 2017

GSA’s overall objective is to have 250,000 beds under management by 2025. Barrelling into the Spanish market, it plans to manage 10,000 beds within the next five years.

GSA, a British group specializing in student residences business, has a strong presence in the Spanish market and intends to keep it that way. The company is planning its route in Spain, in which it plans to invest around 300 million euros over the next five years in adding 10,000 beds to its portfolio, as Christopher Holloway, CEO of GSA in Spain, and Miguel Muñoz, GSA’s director of real estate acquisitions, explained to EjePrime.

GSA’s initial foray into Spain was through Nexo, a company that it acquired mid-year from Threesixty Developments, a firm owned by funds managed by Oaktree Capital Management. Nexo took its first steps in the hands of Holloway and Muñoz with the purchase of the Residencia Galdós in Madrid.

In the following years, Nexo acquired more assets in Madrid, Alcalá de Henares and Barcelona. “GreenOak wanted to leave the shareholding since its horizon in the company was five to seven years, and GSA wanted to start operating in Spain,” the executive added. GSA, which sees its investment in Nexo as “something long-term”, is now ready to grow in Spain through the acquisition of new real estate assets where they can develop their business.

While GSA’s overall goal is to have 250,000 beds under management by 2025, barrelling into the Spanish market, the plan is to manage 10,000 beds within next five years. For this, the group foresees an investment of between 300 million euros and 350 million euros, although “it could grow,” meaning that it is an “approximate, not closed” investment figure.

GSA currently manages two projects in Barcelona that will involve an investment of almost 60 million euros

“To carry out our plan for the coming months, we focused our objective on three main tracks: one part would be the purchase of land for the development of new student residences; another the acquisition of assets, with its subsequent rehabilitation and management, and a third possibility, which is the management of third-party assets, through management contract agreements.

GSA, which has a presence in Germany, China, Japan, Australia, the United Kingdom, Ireland and Dubai, has already set to work on the first two projects to be carried out in Spain under its management. They are two residences located in Barcelona. The first, in the South Campus of the University of Barcelona, will involve an investment of 30 million euros. “For now, we have all the licenses to start building, although construction will not start until February,” GSA stated.

The second project in the Catalan capital will be in the Sants Station and will be carried out in collaboration with the Barcelona City Council. This residence, which is already being built, signified an investment by the group of more than 27 million euros.

“We are now looking for new assets in our primary markets, which are Madrid and Barcelona, and then we will expand our focus to other cities, such as Salamanca, as well as cities in the south and north of Spain,” both executives added.

Regarding the purchase of new companies, at the moment, the CEO of GSA in Spain dismisses the possibility: “the only company that could interest a group like ours is Resa, and its sale was carried out recently.” “For now, we do not know of any other company that interests us,” he says.

The business in Spain

As a Spanish-speaking country, Spain receives a large number of Latin American students every year. Of the more than 100,000 international students that arrived in the last year, 10% were Colombians and Peruvians. They are, together with Italians, the foreign nationalities which most contribute students to the Spanish universities.

The Swiss fund Corestate paid 13.5 million euros for a college in Madrid

This international influx, which represents 7% of the total number of students in state universities, has led different funds to become interested in the construction and purchase of residences in the country. The Swiss fund Corestate entered the market last year, through the acquisition of a college in Madrid, for which it paid 13.5 million euros, while Early Capital will build a residence of 10,000 square meters in Esplugues de Llobregat (Barcelona). Also, the multinational The Student Hotel is already active in Barcelona.

In total, the market for student residences in Spain is expected to receive investments of €600 million in 2017, with a return on prime residences of 5.75%, above countries such as the United Kingdom or Germany (5% in both). Just with the sale of Resa, that quota has already been fulfilled.

Original Story: EjePrime – C. Pareja

Translation: Richard Turner

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