Meliá to Open 1 New Hotel Every 15 Days During 2018 and 2019

7 June 2018 – Expansión

Meliá is accelerating its growth trajectory and is seeking to continue exporting its brands overseas. The Mallorcan hotel chain is planning to open 50 new hotels around the globe over the next two years. “This means that, on average, and with the exception of force majeure or unexpected events, we will be opening a hotel somewhere in the world almost every two weeks”, said Gabriel Escarrer Jaume, Vice President and CEO of the group at the General Shareholders’ Meeting yesterday.

The company ended last year with 375 hotels and 96,239 rooms in 43 countries. Of the total, 68% of the group’s hotels are located in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), 33% in America and 9% in Asia-Pacific.

In this sense, the President of Meliá, Gabriel Escarrer Juliá, highlighted that expansion will continue to be a fundamental “motor” for growth. Escarrer Juliá explained that of the new openings planned until 2019, 20% will be located in EMEA countries, another 20% in the Mediterranean, 27% in America and another 33% in Asia-Pacific.

“Our bet for Asia-Pacific is clear if we consider that since 2013, we have more than quadrupled the number of hotels there to 45, including those that are operational and being opened”, he said.

Escarrer highlighted the operating performance of the company, which last year generated a profit, excluding capital gains, of €128.7 million, up by 27.8%, which allowed it to distribute a dividend of €0.1682 per share, in other words, €38.6 million.

Currently, 31% of the group’s EBTIDA, around €90 million, stems from the management of hotels. “This model allows us to generate high returns with minimal capital requirements since we invest in the acquisition of high-value management contracts and not in real estate assets”.

The CEO of Meliá underlined the effort undertaken in terms of digitalisation and quantified the investment in this area at €100 million over the last three years. That has resulted in the greater role of the corporate website in the business. The director explained that revenues proceeding from melia.com amounted to €520 million in 2017, up by 21%.

The director said that the group’s strategy involves continuing to rotate assets and strengthen their alliances with their partners to grow and improve the hotel portfolio. In 2017, Meliá spent €244 million maintaining and renovating its hotel portfolio.

“We have initiated a new valuation of our portfolio of assets, the global results of which we will have during the third quarter. I trust that the outcome of that valuation exercise will be positive.

Escarrer also referred to the challenges facing the company, including the push from new competitors such as Airbnb and the political instability.

Risk factors

“We feel very comfortable and confident of being able to fulfil the objectives of our strategic plan, although we monitor the main risk factors in our industry very closely, such as the evolution of the so-called collaborative economies and of processes that generate uncertainty, such as Brexit and the complex political situations in countries such as Italy and Spain”.

In any case, he reiterated the forecasts for 2018, with an improvement in RevPAR (average revenue per available room) (…) and an increase in margins of between 100 and 150 basis points.

Original story: Expansión (by Rebeca Arroyo)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Marathon & Colliers Team Up to Finance €200M of Land Purchases in Spain

25 April 2018 – Expansión

MCAP, one of the funds managed by Marathon, is going to offer financing to property developers and cooperatives for the acquisition of finalist land amounting to €200 million.

The current objective of many international investment funds is to take advantage of the strong performance of the house buying market in Spain at the moment, either through the launch of their own property developers or by forming alliances with third parties.

The latest to join the bandwagon is the US manager Marathon Asset Management. The firm has announced that it is going to allocate €200 million to finance the purchase of finalist land in the Spanish market through its London-based subsidiary.

The resources, which come from funds managed by MCAP Global Finance UK, will be shared between property developers and cooperative managers in search of alternative financing and bridge loans for their projects.

The objective is to finance up to 75% of the land value (LTV) depending on the commercial viability of each project, explained sources at Colliers Internacional, Marathon’s partner in this plan. “We expect to close financing agreements amounting to more than €100 million over the next six months”, said Mikel Echavarren, CEO of Colliers International.

The team at Colliers plans to close the first agreements with cooperatives and property developers that are carrying out projects located in Madrid, Málaga, Valencia and Sevilla over the next few weeks. The minimum investment volumes will amount to between €2 million and €3 million.

Original story: Expansión (by Rocío Ruiz)

Translation: Carmel Drake

ASG Homes Is Planning to Build 10,000 Homes in Spain

9 April 2018 – Cinco Días

Metrovacesa, Aedas, Neinor, Vía Célere, Aelca… they are the everyday names of the new players that are reviving the house building sector following the real estate crisis. They are the companies that have stolen the limelight thanks to their ambitious plans and the return of these kinds of businesses to the stock market. But there is a quieter successor that is silently gathering a giant portfolio of land and with some ambitious plans of its own in the residential development sector. The company in question is ASG Homes, backed by the British fund manager ASG Capital Management and its subsidiary ASG Iberia.

Recently, the initiative has been baptised ASG Homes, the brand that will reach out to potential homebuyers. That will be the logo that clients will see when they visit one of the developments. Behind the brand is the ASG Iberia team, which in recent years has been acquiring a collection of plots in different provinces across Spain to accumulate 500,000 m2 of land in total, one of the largest portfolios in the country.

“We are the great dark horse”, recognises Víctor Pérez Arias, CEO of ASG Homes for Spain and Portugal. The current portfolio of land gives the company the possibility of building 5,000 homes. “The aspiration is to double our existing capacity”, he adds. That means investing more over the coming months to accumulate a portfolio with the potential for the construction of 10,000 homes. To date, the company has invested €400 million of its own funds to obtain its current land portfolio.

The property developer focuses on operations involving the purchase of debt with real estate collateral and on complex situations to reduce the prices it pays. Precisely for those reasons, the company rules out competitive tenders for acquiring land.

Currently, its plots are located in Valencia, Alicante, Málaga, Costa del Sol, Madrid, Salamanca and Sevilla. Specifically, in the Andalucían capital, the company is already planning to build 1,100 homes. So far, it has not entered the market in Barcelona, above all because prices are high in the city, but it does not rule out future opportunities.

Based on data provided by the companies, ASG is positioned in fifth place in the ranking of property developers planning to build the most homes, with around 2,000 units in the pipeline. It comes in behind only Neinor, Metrovacesa, Aelca and Amenabar.

Moreover, this year, the property developer plans to sell 1,500 new homes and hand over 500 homes to its clients. The market is looking at all of these new companies with a magnifying glass, above all of those that are listed on the stock market, to check whether they are capable of fulfilling their plans. Pérez Arias says that the company is already handing over its first developments in Alicante.

In Spain, these types of international funds have starred in the recovery of the house building sector, either through the creation of new property developers, such as in the case of ASG, or by refloating companies with problems.

The new property developers include Neinor, backed initially by Lone Star, after it purchased Kutxabank’s real estate business for €935 million. It was the first property developer to debut on the stock market in more than a decade and its main shareholder has already collected its profits after selling all of its share on the market.

It was followed on the stock market by Aedas Homes, backed by Castlelake. The 100-year old Metrovacesa also returned to the stock exchange, in that case, led by Santander and BBVA. Moreover, the fund Värde has two property developers that are currently sounding out the same path (Aelca and Vía Célere). In turn, Baupost has created Q21 Real Estate. Cerberus has also acquired the historical Inmoglacier and in the same vein, Bain Capital has purchased Habitat. Another example is the alliance between Gestilar and Morgan Stanley.

Original story: Cinco Días (by Alfonso Simón Ruiz)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Irea: “Mistakes Are Still Being Made But We Are A Long Way From A Bubble”

22 February 2018 – El Economista

The real estate sector is booming and the euphoria that is being experienced, especially in the residential segment, is leading to a genuine war in the purchase of land. That is according to Mikel Echavarren (pictured below), CEO of Irea, who says that the first mistakes are starting to be made.

The Director, who has participated in significant operations in the sector, such as Bain’s purchase of Habitat, and who has acted as a financial advisor to Blackstone in its acquisition of Banco Popular, believes that the next alliances will be harder to forge, but, even so, expects to see greater consolidation in the sector.

Q: How is the fabric of the real estate business evolving?

A: The residential development sector is giving rise to eye-catching activities in the market, such as stock market debuts and corporate acquisitions. On the one hand, we have the upper part of the sector, with large companies and on the other hand, we have the vast majority of real estate companies, which are lifting up their heads, maximising everything they can with the few resources they have. They have more money now than they did in 2013 and they have resolved almost all of their debt problems (…). They are all taking their first steps with something that did not exist before the crisis: money from funds for specific projects. And that is causing companies to revive and, as always happens, the markets that are recovering first are the Costa del Sol, Madrid, Barcelona, Málaga, Sevilla and Bilbao. But there are still some markets that have not recovered at all.

Q: Do you need to be big to survive in this sector?

A: Being big in the residential sector means that you can access the land purchases that the majority of companies don’t have the capacity to afford. It does not mean you have to be listed, but being large allows you to access faster and cheaper financing, and with that, you can rotate your portfolio much more. Meanwhile, smaller property developers have to hand over developments that they started three years ago to be able to afford to invest in land now (…).

Q: So, whoever can afford to buy land is guaranteed success?

Yes. Whoever has funds today to buy land in good locations is going to emerge victorious. That is one of the reasons why being large makes sense. Land is a scarce asset and since no new plots are coming onto the market due to the active or passive inoperativeness of the Administration, and because there is no capacity to finance the development of new land, prices are going to soar. Developable land prices have decreased by a lot (since their pre-crisis peaks), by between 60% and 80%, and I am certain that they will rise by between 200% and 300% (…).

Q: This situation means that the greatest fights are now over the purchase of land…

A: Yes, punches are already being thrown in this fight and we are entering a time in which mistakes are being made because people are buying land that is too expensive. But given that they are making those mistakes with their own funds, we are not facing a bubble scenario (…).

Q: With Neinor Homes, Aedas and Metrovacesa now listed, do you think we are going to see a boom in the number of property developers going public?

A: Going public is a consequence of the fact that there are funds behind the real estate companies that are looking to obtain returns. Nowadays, there are so many players wanting to invest in property developers in Spain, because, in theory, their performance is going to be very highly correlated with the recovery of the Spanish economy, that with few listed firms and so much capital, the value of them is increasing and it does not make sense for a property developer’s share price to exceed the value of its assets. I think that in two years time, we will see half a dozen companies listed on the stock market, but no more. There are not going to be that many because it is hard for a property developer to be strong, and to have good and geographically diversified plots. There have been some clear examples that are not going to be replicated, such as in the case of Vía Célere, which is a really good company that was sold because it did not have anyone to take over, but it is hard for many more operations like that to arise. Funds that already participate in a property developer do so because they are sure that they are going to go public. But we can expect to see acquisitions, purchases that seem like mergers (…).

Q: One of the major social problems in this country is the difficulty that young people face when affording to buy their first home. Moreover, they are now also struggling in the rental market…

A: It is a big problem and it reflects a structural change, not a circumstantial change. There is a huge proportion of the population who cannot and will never be able to buy a home in their lifetime, and then there is a percentage of people who do not want to buy a home, who prefer to travel or buy a good car, or simply have more flexibility (…). What is happening is that there is an unstoppable process to expel people from their homes who traditionally lived in rental properties in the centre of cities. That has happened in all of the major cities in Europe and it is going to happen here too. The centre is reserved for people with more money and for tourist rentals (…).

Q: In your view, which operations and businesses do you think still offer good opportunities for investors in Spain?

A: Large investors still have the possibility of creating residential development platforms with good managers and to debut them on the stock market or sell them to another party. I also see options in the sector for alternative financing. If everyone wants to buy land and the banks don’t want to finance land purchases, then there is a niche to lend (expensively) to whoever wants to buy. I also see opportunities in the market for land purchases; for example buying land to develop it or to carry out the final management procedures and then sell it on (…).

Original story: El Economista (by Alba Brualla)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Parques Reunidos to Spend €15M on new Lionsgate Leisure Centre in Madrid

31 January 2018 – Eje Prime

Parques Reunidos is strengthening its commitment to forming alliances with multinational brands to open new leisure spaces in Spain. The latest company that the group has created is the film production company Lionsgate, with which it is going to develop an indoor activity centre in Madrid. Investment in the project will reach €15 million in total and the inauguration of the centre is expected to take place at the beginning of 2020.

Located next to Príncipe Pío station, the centre will have a surface area of 4,200 m2 and will house an obstacle course, a climbing wall, a state-of-the-art movement simulator, a 4D cinema and various virtual reality experiences, according to Expansión.

Similarly, a restaurant and cafeteria will be installed in the space, which will operate independently of the centre and which will not charge an entry fee.

This alliance between Parque Reunidos and producer of films such as The Hunger Games and the series Mad Men, follows several that it has signed in the past with other multinationals such as Ducati and Nickelodeon.

The group’s roadmap establishes the opening of half a dozen more centres of this kind over the next few years, with an average investment equal to the amount being spent on the Lionsgate space.

Original story: Eje Prime

Translation: Carmel Drake

Century 21 Analyses Inorganic Growth Opportunities

25 January 2018 – Expansión

Century 21, one of the largest networks of real estate brokers in Spain, wants to take advantage of the upward trend in the real estate cycle to grow in size, and so is analysing the purchase of regional operators and is even considering merging with one of the national chains.

“Spain is one of the countries in which the broker segment is most fragmented. We are starting to see a trend towards consolidation, which is both inevitable and necessary. We believe that an organised network, with defined working and behavioural criteria and self-regulation, are fundamental for the professionalization of the sector”, said Ricardo Sousa, CEO of Century 21 for Spain and Portugal, speaking to Expansión.

Sousa explains that, although his firm is not currently holding any advanced negotiations in this regard, the company is “mindful” of acquisition opportunities. “There are regional players that may enhance the synergies and allow for more rapid and consistent growth. That is something that appeals to us”, he said.

Alliances

Sousa also opens the door to alliances with players that compete on the national level: “We are continuing with our organic strategy of value creation with the opening of new branches and through our network of collaborators. In parallel, we are watching the market to find the ideal partner”.

The director gives the example of the “success” of the merger between Century 21 Portugal and Fitamétrica – two of the largest networks in the Portuguese market – five years ago.

Century 21 arrived in Spain in 2010, at the height of the crisis in the real estate market. Eight years later and, with the residential sector now booming, the company has 70 branches and 1,150 collaborators.

The director considers that “there is too much optimism in the market”, which is being translated into certain “irrational” investment and purchase decisions. And he adds: “People need to be more careful because the cycles are becoming increasingly faster and shorter”. For Sousa, there is a clear need in Spain for new-build and renovated properties and there is a segment of the population, the middle and low-middle class, that has been “forgotten”.

Last year, the company recorded turnover of €15.7 million, which represented an increase of 37%. In 2018, Century 21 plans to increase its revenues by 27%, to €20 million. Barcelona will account for 30% of total turnover, a similar percentage to that recorded in the Canary Islands, whilst Madrid is expected to represent 25% of total revenues. The company plans to focus its growth efforts on peripheral areas in those regions.

Last year, Century 21 brokered 5,414 transactions, which represents an increase of 22% with an average value of €199,598, down by 6.3%.

In terms of Cataluña –the chain’s main region, which currently accounts for 41% of turnover -, Sousa acknowledges that the political tension led to a deceleration during the months following the referendum. “Many buyers delayed their purchase decisions in October and November, and decided to close those operations in December and January instead, meaning that those months have reached record highs”, he said.

In this regard, Sousa says that whilst the domestic market has been reactivated, international firms are leaving their investment operations on standby, for the time being.

Original story: Expansión (by Rebeca Arroyo)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Knight Frank: Residential Inv’t Continues To Rise

14 October 2016 – Expansión

Residential investment is continuing its upwards trend in Spain despite the political uncertainty that continues to plague the country. In 2016, investment in the housing sector is expected to exceed last year’s levels thanks, above all, to the boost from property developers and private capital, and to the increasingly important role being played by investment funds. According to a report prepared by the real estate consultancy Knight Frank, the volume of residential investment in Madrid will reach €1,000 million by the end of 2016, whereby slightly exceeding the €950 million recorded last year and the €800 million recorded in 2014.

Currently, residential assets account for 19% of all real estate investment, compared to tertiary sector assets (offices, retail, industrial and logistics assets), which account for 81%.

By type of investor, the main players are private equity firms, which account for 36% of all operations and property developers (31%), followed by investment funds (20%), cooperatives (8%) and Socimis (5%).

In its report, Knight Frank highlights that alliances between local property developers, who bring knowledge and management expertise to the table, and international funds, who contribute capital, still represent a “formula for success” in the residential real estate market.

Moreover, this segment hardly sees any opportunistic operations. “Operations of a value added nature, which require investors to assume some of the risk involved in repositioning assets, are the most prevalent, on the basis that most investments have involved buildings that need renovating”, explained the consultancy. In this sense, the Socimis are the big stars of core operations – safer transactions that offer investors lower returns -.

Fewer defaults

In terms of financing, the report from the consultancy highlights the change that the sector has experienced compared to the years of economic crisis, when the credit tap was firmly shut.

Knight Frank highlights that one of the most significant differences in the new cycle is that financial institutions are not only giving importance to appraisal values, they are also analysing projects before they grant financing.

For the consultancy firm, the major adjustment in the banks’ weighting criteria, following the transformation of the financial system and the new classification of clients and loan to value policies, have caused the default rate to decrease to around 6.5% over the last two years, bringing it to levels more in line with the European average. Nevertheless, Knight Frank points out that Spain has a fair way to go to reach the levels seen in countries such as Germany (4%) and France (4%).

Financing

In terms of the alternative to the classic property developer loan financing, the consultancy firm highlights the rise of the Socimis as specialist vehicles and fixed income financing, for example, through bonds.

Original story: Expansión (by R. Arroyo)

Translation: Carmel Drake