Testa Becomes A Socimi & Puts Its Residential Portfolio Up For Sale

29 September 2015 – Expansión

The real estate company Testa is making progress with its integration with the Socimi Merlin Properties. Yesterday, the company held an extraordinary shareholders’ meeting to approve a change in the corporate structure of the real estate company into a listed real estate investment company (Socimi).

The decision comes after an agreement was made between Sacyr and Merlin in June to sell Testa for €1,793 million. Currently, the Socimi led by Ismael Clemente (pictured above) controls 77% of Testa’s capital and is expected to own 100% of the shares before the end of June 2016.

The Socimi-conversion will apply (retrospectively) from 1 January 2015, which means that Testa may benefit this year from the tax advantages afforded to this kind of company, although they have yet to be quantified.

At the meeting yesterday, the shareholders approved the appointment of Ismael Clemente as a Director of Testa; he currently also serves as the Chairman and CEO of Merlin Properties. In addition, Miguel Ollero, a Director of Merlin, was also appointed as an independent Director of Testa, following the resignation of Juan María Aguirre Gonzalo.

Following the entry of these two new Directors, Testa’s governing body comprises seven members, including the Chairman, Fernando Rodríguez Avial and the CEO, Fernando Lacadena.

Once the purchase of the whole company has been completed, the two companies will merge into a single Socimi. The new Merlin Properties will have assets worth around €5,000 million.

Having taken control of Testa, the Directors of Merlin have decided to divest the real estate company’s residential portfolio, which contains around 1,500 homes. They have engaged two consultancy firms to coordinate this process, which is expected to begin within two weeks.

Potential purchasers of the portfolio include other Socimis and investment funds.

In addition to the sale of this package of properties, which generates annual rental income of €10.5 million, Merlin has also announced that it will sell the portfolio of hotels currently owned by Testa, before the end of the year.

Merlin’s shares closed trading on the stock exchange yesterday at €10.72 per share, up 0.33%, taking its market capitalisation to €3,461.3 million, whilst the market capitalisation of Testa is €2,055.5 million.

Original story: Expansión (by Rocío Ruiz)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Bank Of Spain: Residential Rental Yields Rise To 5%

18 May 2015 – Expansión

Residential market / The average annual return on rental properties is equivalent to 3.1x the return on public debt – a historical record. Demand for rental property has soared by 42.5% in three years.

After seven-years in decline, it seems that the housing sector is back. The residential market is oozing optimism once again, although it is also full of caution, learned during the post-bubble era, and  uncertainty, inherent in a recovery that is still recent.

But the data is improving and housing has become a good investment once again, above all due to the significant rental returns offered nowadays. Investors looking for yields that exceed those on deposits and public debt are on the hunt for properties in good locations, with high demand, with a view to buying them to let.

The data endorses this trend, since the rental income for a residential property offers an annual gross return of around 5%. On average, 4.7%, according to the Bank of Spain. It is the highest percentage recorded since June 2003, during the height of the housing bubble, although other reports, such as the one published by idealista, puts the figure even higher, at 5.3%.

The gross yield is a percentage of the total price of the house covered by the annual rental income. This yield, published by the Bank of Spain, also takes into account capital gains.

Taking into account the data from the body led by Luis María Linde, the average annual rental yield is no less than 3.1x the return generated by public debt on the secondary markets during the last quarter (1.5%). That is a historical record for this comparative ratio, which dates back to 1991. Meanwhile, bank deposits offer a return of 0.6% each year.

What does all this mean? Simply, that the moment is ripe for investment in buy-to-let housing, especially for small investors. The price of homes is beginning to increase and so are rentals, which means that the market is at an impasse of high returns without much risk. Moreover, the percentage of citizens who prefer to rent rather than buy has risen sharply, from 11.4% in the boom years to the current rate of 19%. In the past three years alone, the rental market has expanded to include one million more homes; it has grown by 42.5%.

On the other hand, the price of homes is starting to rise, specifically by 2.65% during the first quarter of the year, according to the registers. This trend towards stability in terms of property prices points to an easing of returns in the rental market, and so analysts believe that now is the best time to invest (rather than waiting to invest over the next few quarters).

According to the experts, the prime areas of the large cities are those that offer the safest opportunities, due to their significant demand, although without exorbitant returns. For example, the Madrid neighbourhood of Retiro, where the average price per square metre for sale is €3,289 and for rent is €11.6/m2/month, according to the index prepared by IE Business School and Fotocasa. A property measuring 100 m2 with these parameters would have an annual return of 4.2%. A second-hand home measuring 100 m2 in the Goya neighbourhood (Madrid) would have a return of around 4.7%.

“Homes in the best locations are the most attractive to rent. They will go up in price and there is no risk of default or lack of demand”, says the real estate consultant José Luis Ruiz Bartolomé. “It is possible that rental prices will also start to rise, although by less that sales prices. The rental margin will narrow, but that is because certainty will increase as well; I do not see that as a bad thing”, he adds.

And in the peripheral areas? “You have to look at where there is more demand than supply”, says Ruiz. Julio Gil, President of the Foundation for Real Estate Studies agrees: “It is the best option for small investors, due to the returns and minimal risk”.

Some properties offer higher yields than housing, such as commercial premises (7.2%) and offices (6.7%), according to idealista.com. Garages yield 4.5%.

Original story: Expansión (by Juanma Lamet)

Translation: Carmel Drake