Blackstone will be the Landlord of 25,000 Rental Homes by the End of 2019

31 January 2019 – Voz Pópuli

Blackstone, one of the largest investment companies in the world, expects to end the year with 25,000 rental homes under management in Spain.

Eduard Mendiluce (pictured above, left), the man from Blackstone who leads the US giant’s real estate emporium in Spain, has explained that the firm believes in the Spanish market, as it has done since 2014, and will end 2019 managing 10,000 more rental homes that it currently owns (15,000).

“We continue to believe in the fundamentals of the residential sector in Spain”, said Mendiluce at a conference about the real estate sector organised by Iese in Madrid. “Spain was one of the countries that suffered the most during the real estate crisis of 2008; prices are still 30% below their maximums”, he said.

The CEO of Aliseda and Anticipa explained that the US fund’s strategy in Spain in terms of real estate involves renting or buying and selling second-hand homes worth between €120,000 and €150,000. “When you have more than 200 homes under management in a given municipality, the business becomes profitable”, he explained.

Blackstone has invested almost €26 billion in the Spanish market over the last five years. In March 2014, it purchased 40,000 problem mortgages from Catalunya Caixa for €3.6 billion.

Since then, it has purchased: Banco Popular’s toxic property, together with Santander, for more than €5 billion; the Socimi Hispania for €2 billion; and 50.01% of the rental home Socimi Testa for €947 million. Last year, it bought Cirsa, a leading company in the gaming industry in Europe in a deal worth €2 billion.

In terms of the criticisms directed at the rental policies of Blackstone and other funds from certain sectors, Mendiluce has highlighted that in Spain, the funds own just 3% of the total rental housing stock, and that the rest is in the hands of individuals.

“I think that it is difficult to manipulate prices when you only account for a small percentage (of the market)”, he said. “I firmly believe that if there has been very concentrated price inflation in a handful of towns, then that has been due to a lack of supply”, and he pointed out that Spain has the lowest percentage of social housing in Europe.

Fashionable market

Juan José Brugera, President of the real estate company Colonial, was very optimistic about the real estate sector in Spain.

“We are in an expansive phase of the cycle, we are facing lower growth, but growth is growth, and it’s strong in Spain”, he said at the conference organised by Iese. “In the rental cycle, we are still in the growth phase, we have potential for rental growth that we believe ensures a strong performance over the next two or three years” he said.

“The Spanish market is fashionable at the moment, we predict expansive behaviour”, he said. “I have a positive vision, the stock market is behaving a bit strangely, but I think that is due to certain turbulences, both external and internal, that are generating uncertainty”.

Original story: Voz Pópuli (by Alberto Ortín)

Translation: Carmel Drake

CPPIB, doBank & Haya Compete for Altamira

14 November 2018 – Cinco Días

The sector of real estate servicers for assets proceeding from the banks is in flux. The latest process in the market to catch the attention of major funds and operators in the sector involves Altamira, the firm controlled by the manager Apollo, which owns 85% of the company, and Santander (15%). The first entity to make a major bid has been its competitor Haya Real Estate (owned by Cerberus), as published by Cinco Días on 8 November. That offer has now been joined by one from CPPIB, the Canadian Pensions Fund and one of the largest investors in the world.

Another player interested in Altamira Asset Management, according to financial sources, is the Italian firm doBank, formerly UniCredit Credit Management. That listed entity is controlled by Fortress. It is the largest doubtful loan manager in the transalpine country. Meanwhile, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) is a fund that manages the pensions of 20 million Canadian people, with assets worth €245.7 billion.

Altamira was created by Santander as a servicer for its toxic assets linked to property. In 2013, the bank sold 85% of the entity to the US fund for just under €700 million. Five years later, the manager from New York, which has not managed to star in any of the major bank portfolio purchases, has decided to exit the company. The amount of the operation, a sales process that has been entrusted to Goldman Sachs, is expected to exceed €600 million.

Altamira has become one of the large managers of financial and real estate assets in Spain, with a total volume of assets under management of €53.8 billion compared with €26 billion at the end of 2014, and with more than 82,000 properties, on behalf of around fifteen clients.

In recent months, there has been significant movement in the shareholders of these servicers, in large part linked to the sale of the bank portfolios. If Cerberus, through Haya, manages to acquire Altamira, it will be the third entity that the US fund controls, after Haya and Divarian (formerly Anida, linked to BBVA). The idea of the fund is to integrate it with Haya to relaunch that firm’s debut on the stock market, as reported by this newspaper. Blackstone, in turn, controls Aliseda (previously owned by Popular) and Anticipa. Lone Star acquired Servihabitat (formerly owned by La Caixa) this summer, and Sabadell has also put Solvia up for sale, another servicer that also interests Cerberus.

Original story: Cinco Días (by Alfonso Simón Ruiz & Pablo Martín Simón)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Cerberus Plans to Create a Real Estate Giant by Acquiring Altamira & Solvia

10 November 2018 – Expansión

Cerberus is increasing its commitment to the Spanish real estate market. The US fund is the favourite candidate to take over the reins at Altamira, the manager of property loans and foreclosed real estate assets currently owned by Apollo and Santander. Moreover, Cerberus is battling it out with the fund Lindorff (now Intrum) and other investors to purchase Solvia.

As Expansión revealed on 8 October, Apollo renewed its contract with the investment bank Goldman Sachs at the beginning of the summer and distributed the teaser (the sales document containing a general description) to potential interested parties to dispose of this asset for between €500 million and €600 million. Although it is not alone in the process, Cerberus is the candidate that has the best chance of acquiring that company.

But Cerberus is not going to settle for that asset only. Financial sources assure that the US fund is also bidding for Solvia, in a process in which it is also competing with Lindorff. The CEO of Sabadell, Jaume Guardiola, noted, during the presentation of the results on 26 October, the “good appetite” in the market for Solvia, “whose sale will close “soon”. He whereby confirmed the sale of Solvia Servicios Inmobiliarios (SSI) and Solvia Desarrollos Inmobiliarios (SDI). For the sale of SSI, in which it is being advised by Alantra, the bank hopes to receive up to €400 million.

Concentration of the market

If Cerberus ends up being the winner of both processes, it will become the clear leader of the servicer sector and a proponent of concentration between the servicers. These companies, created from the former real estate subsidiaries of the banks, have become some of the stars of the new real estate cycle.

Currently, almost all of the assets under management of the banks are in the hands of a few companies such as Altamira, Servihabitat, Haya Real Estate, Aliseda, Anticipa, Solvia and Divarian (previously Anida). These firms are mainly responsible for the management and recovery of debt and transformation of loan obligations into foreclosed real estate assets, as well as the sale and rental of assets.

If Cerberus ends up taking control of Altamira and Solvia, it will control almost 65% of the market for servicers, which will allow it to mark a differentiation in its strategy. Currently, the US fund controls Haya Real Estate, one of the large servicers with €40 billion in assets under management. Moreover, it took over the reins at Anida, which was in the hands of BBVA, and which manages €13 billion.

If it adds Altamira and Solvia to its portfolio, the volume of assets under management will soar to €138.9 billion, with a market share in the servicer segment of 65%. According to numbers managed by the consultancy firm Axis, the other two dominant funds are Blackstone, with Anticipa and Aliseda (also from Santander) and LoneStar, which controls Servihabitat after purchasing that company from La Caixa in the summer.

Other assets

In addition to the servicers, Cerberus is also the owner of the property developer Inmoglacier; the online estate agency between individuals Housell; and the debt recovery company Gescobro (…).

Original story: Expansión (by R.Arroyo and D.Badía)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Who are Spain’s Largest Residential Landlords?

11 October 2018 – El País

Every month, they receive rent from thousands of tenants who live in the thousands of flats that they own. They are the large landlords of Spain, although it is worth noting one important point: even though between them, they own more than 120,000 residential rental assets, that figure accounts for just 5% of all of the homes on the rental market. In Spain, the stock of rental housing – which exceeds 2.3 million properties, according to calculations from the Ministry of Development – is still dominated by individuals above all. At the other end of the spectrum, that of companies, it is not easy to draw a clear map of who’s who in the Spanish market. There are banks, investment funds, Socimis, real estate companies, servicers, managers…the difference is substantial: some are owners of houses whilst others specialise only in administering the properties.

The properties intersect between these two larges groups. The homes of a bank may belong to a real estate company owned by the entity itself and be administrated by its manager, which in turn, may be responsible for the houses of other companies. Or a fund may own several servicers, the name given to the platforms that, since the crisis, have absorbed a large proportion of the toxic assets (both properties and mortgages) owned by the banks, and that in turn, may be entrusted with the administration of some of the homes by the banks. The examples are simpler if we look at specific cases. What follows is a portrait of the main protagonists of the residential rental market in Spain. Seven companies that control portfolios that come close to or exceed 10,000 assets each, according to figures facilitated by them and by other sources in the sector.

Blackstone. This real estate investment fund is well on its way to becoming the largest owner of rental housing in Spain. It entered the market in 2013 with the purchase of a portfolio of social housing properties that the Town Hall of Madrid, led at the time by Ana Botella, put up for sale. Those 1,860 homes were just the start of a portfolio that now contains around 32,000 properties. Since then, Blackstone has acquired thousands of toxic assets from entities such as Banco Popular and Catalunya Caixa. From the real estate arm of the latter, CX Inmobiliaria, a subsidiary of the US fund emerged, which is now responsible for managing most of its rental homes. Anticipa is a specialist servicer in what is known as “fragmented management”. Its 15,000 homes do not form part of blocks of buildings, but rather they are scattered all over the country. In addition to that portfolio, Fidere manages 6,200 properties. That Socimi (…) was created specifically after the operation was closed with the Town Hall of Madrid and then continued to add other residential assets to its portfolio, which unlike Anticipa’s form part of blocks and urbanisations. The latest blow, in terms of the effect on the market, came last month, with Blackstone’s agreement to purchase 70.01% of Testa. With the control of that Socimi – which until then belonged to Santander, BBVA, Acciona and Merlin – around 32,000 rental assets are now under the orbit of the US fund, making it the largest landlord in Spain.

CaixaBank. Until recently, the Catalan entity was the largest owner of rental homes and it is still in the top three. Unlike the other banks, which succumbed to the pressure to sell to interested investors, the former Caixa owns 27,557 residential rental assets through its real estate arm Building Center. The entity’s own manager, Servihabitat, is responsible for managing those assets, and its portfolio also includes assets entrusted by other owners, taking its total to 42,163 assets. Of those 28,549 are homes (and the remainder are storerooms and parking spaces).

Banco Sabadell. A very similar example to CaixaBank. In this case, the entity’s own servicer, Solvia, is responsible for managing its residential rental assets. Its rental portfolio comprises around 32,000 residential assets and, of those, 74% belong to Sabadell, making it the third largest landlord in Spain with around 23,600 assets.

Haya. In fourth place on the list is the servicer owned by Cerberus. The investment fund created it after acquiring some of Bankia’s real estate portfolio. Then it increased it with purchases from other banks such as Santander. At the end of 2017, based on the most recent data provided by the company, it managed around 14,100 assets.

Azora. This manager administers around 11,000 homes on behalf of other companies and Socimis. Its main clients include Lazora, a company recently recapitalised by CBRE GIP and Madison, which owns 6,800 assets, and Encasa Cibeles, which has 2,500 assets and is owned by the investment bank Goldman Sachs.

Sareb. The (…) bad bank concentrated more than €50 billion in toxic assets during the crisis, including both mortgages and properties. Its objective was, and still is, to divest them, but in the meantime, it has been capitalising what it can. One of the ways is placing some of its properties up for rent. It has more than 10,000 in its portfolio, but it does not manage them directly: it has distributed the management of 5,223 units between Altamira, Haya, Servihabitat and Solvia. The 1,383 that form part of Témpore, a Socimi owned by Sareb, are administered by Azora. Finally, it has around 4,000 that it is reserving for social housing rentals and that it is handing over on a piecemeal basis as one-off agreements are reached with autonomous regions and large town Halls.

Altamira. Another servicer, which belongs to Apollo and Banco Santander. Its rental portfolio comprises 12,500 properties including tertiary assets. Most, around 9,700, are residential assets and belong to Santander or Sareb.

Original story: El País (by José Luis Aranda)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Blackstone Launches Large Sale of Buildable Land After Acquiring Aliseda

6 September 2018 – El Confidencial

It was just a matter of time. Aliseda, the servicer of Banco Popular, now controlled by Blackstone (51%) and Santander (49%), is starting the school year by looking for buyers for 270 residential plots and work in progress developments, with a total buildability of more than 2 million m2, distributed throughout Spain.

It is the most important land sale currently underway in Spain and, unlike what is happening in other areas of the market, it will not involve a block sale of assets, but rather possible interested parties may acquire each plot individually, which will allow for the entry of local property developers into a market that has been dominated until now by large property developers and investment funds.

The assets are located in 43 Spanish provinces. They consist of 231 plots in total, mainly buildable plots or plots under development, and 39 projects in progress. Many of the sites are located in Galicia, Levante, Costa del Sol and the Canary Islands; the latter market has been especially active in recent months.

“Unlike other sales processes, the operation that Aliseda is now putting on the market allows investors the possibility of submitting an offer for any of the plots independently, which means that they can structure the perimeter that best suits their needs and investment criteria. In this way, both local property developers, as well as institutional investors will have the opportunity to participate under equal conditions”, says Adolfo Blázquez, Director of Land at Aliseda.

Local developers and national developers looking to grow in volume and build large developments may bid for the plots, as may institutional investors looking to buy large blocks of buildable land – a scarce and very sought-after asset, especially in the hottest markets of Madrid, Barcelona and the islands.

Meanwhile, Samuel Población, National Director of residential and land at CBRE, the exclusive consultancy firm selected to launch the sales process, says that “the shortage of buildable land in the Spanish market has become one of the great barriers for property developers. Thus, the activation of residential land sale processes, such as this operation by Aliseda, places prime raw material on the market, which will gradually start to satisfy the high demand that currently exists”.

The process began on 7 September, with access being granted to information about the assets, and will go on until December with the closure of selected bids.

In March, the US fund and Banco Santander created Proyecto Quasar Investments, the holding company that groups together the real estate portfolio of Banco Popular and the marketing platform Aliseda. Blackstone controls the majority of the capital in the new company and also takes care of its management, led by Eduard Mendiluce, the CEO of the company. Mendiluce is also the most senior executive of Anticipa, the other large real estate firm that the fund owns in Spain and the former head of Catalunya Caixa Inmobiliaria.

Original story: El Confidencial

Translation: Carmel Drake

Blackstone has Created a RE Giant in Spain Worth €20bn

4 September 2018 – Expansión

In just five years, the US fund has become the largest owner of hotels and one of the biggest landlords in the country. Moreover, it manages several major mortgage portfolios.

Blackstone made its first foray into the Spanish real estate market in July 2013, with the purchase from the Municipal Housing and Land Company of Madrid (EMVS) of 18 residential developments, containing 1,860 homes in total, in the Madrilenian neighbourhoods of Carabanchel, Centro, Villa de Vallecas and Villaverde for almost €126 million.

Since then, the US fund, one of the largest investment firms in the world, has turned the Spanish real estate sector into one of its favourite destinations for investment, encouraged by the boom that the market in Spain has experienced over the last five years.

Blackstone’s dominance in the Spanish market is now unquestionable. Since 2012, the US fund has acquired property in the country worth almost €20 billion and it is now the owner of several listed vehicles, as well as of some of the main asset managers in the country.

With that figure, which accounts for 20% of the €100 billion that Blackstone Real Estate has invested around the world, the firm is the country’s largest private manager of real estate assets, including properties and portfolios of mortgages.

In Spain, the fund was one of the first to back the residential segment when the real estate market was still struggling and it has been one of the most active players in the purchase of asset portfolios containing NPLs and REOs from financial institutions.

The fund’s purchase of homes in Madrid from EMVS in 2013 was soon followed by the acquisition of another 1,000 social housing properties from Sareb and FCC. Those homes are owned by Fidere, the fund’s first Socimi, which made its debut on the Alternative Investment Market (MAB) in 2015.

In the same year, Blackstone completed its first major operation with the purchase from Catalunya Caixa of a portfolio comprising 40,000 loans in total, worth €6.4 billion. Blackstone paid €3.5 billion for that portfolio, known as Hercules.

A year later, the US fund purchased the Catalan entity’s real estate manager (without any assets), which was later renamed Anticipa.

Nowadays, that company manages the more than 12,000 rental homes which Blackstone has been purchasing from the banks in different portfolios and which it controls through the Socimi Albirana, which made its stock market debut in 2016, and Torbel Investments.

Popular’s property

Two years after purchasing the Hercules portfolio, Blackstone hit the headlines again with the purchase from Santander of 51% of Banco Popular’s real estate business, with a book value of around €10.3 billion. With that acquisition, Blackstone increased its commitment to Spain and become the most active overseas investment fund in the country. To group together those assets, months later, Blackstone and Santander created Project Quasar Investment, a company that also includes the marketing platform Aliseda (…).

In addition, (…) the US fund has launched itself into the hotel segment, to take advantage of the good times being enjoyed in the tourist sector at the moment. Blackstone’s first incursion into that market in Spain was the acquisition of HI Partners from Sabadell last summer for €630 million. Through that platform, Blackstone owns 17 hotels in Spain comprising more than 4,500 rooms.

Takeover of Hispania

A few months after that acquisition, the US investment firm made a bid for Hispania, the Spanish Socimi specialising in hotels managed by Azora, which owns 46 assets and almost 13,150 rooms in Spain (…). Following that operation, which valued the Socimi at €1.99 billion, the US fund controls almost 91% of Hispania.

As well as hotels, Hispania owns 25 office buildings, with a market value of more than €600 million and residential assets worth €230 million, which now also form part of the fund’s assets (…).

Blackstone is also a star player in the logistics sector. The fund currently controls 10% of the Pan-European platform Logicor, which manages approximately 1.2 million m2 of logistics space in Spain (…).

Also, in July, it purchased five logistics warehouses from the Socimi Lar (…) for almost €120 million.

The fund’s most recent purchase was the headquarters of Planeta, located on Avenida Diagonal in Barcelona, which it acquired from the Lara family for €210 million (…).

Original story: Expansión (by Rebeca Arroyo)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Blackstone Acquires Planeta’s HQ from the Lara Family for €210M

12 July 2018 – Expansión

Inversiones Hemisferio, a company owned by different branches of the Lara family, has reached an agreement with the US fund Blackstone to sell the headquarters of the editorial and media group Planeta before Banco Sabadell can repossess the building in exchange for the debt taken out at the time by the family holding company.

According to sources close to the operation, Blackstone is going to pay €210 million for the property located on Avenida Diagonal in Barcelona, where Planeta will continue as the tenant. The rental income will generate a yield of less than 4% for the investor.

In May, the Lara family, owner of Planeta, agreed to transfer the building, worth €170 million, to Banco Sabadell, but was given until September to try to find another buyer on its own and attempt to agree a higher price.

The complex has a total surface area of 27,000 m2, of which 25,000 m2 correspond to office space, leased to Planeta and other tenants, therefore Blackstone will be paying €8,000/m2. The same sources assure that that buyer and seller have already reached an agreement on the price and conditions and that the operation is just pending the signatures.

In 2001, the Lara family purchased the building – the former headquarters of Banca Catalana – for around €100 million. In 2006, Inversiones Hemisferio, together with other real estate companies, such as the firm owned by Mango’s boss, Isak Andic, Joaquín Folch Rosiñol (Industrias Titán) and Héctor Colonques (Porcelanosa), purchased 12% of Banco Sabadell for €1.295 billion. The Lara family controlled 3% of the bank, but during the crisis, Sabadell’s share price plummeted and Hemisferio was obliged to offer up the building on Avenida Diagonal by way of guarantee.

Hemisferio’s debt with the bank matures in September. Sabadell and the Lara family agreed to transfer the asset two months ago if Hemisferio did not manage to sell the building sooner on its own for a higher price. This situation forced the real estate company owned by the family behind Planeta to organise the sale of the building in record time and to find a buyer with sufficient financial standing to fork out the more than €200 million that it was asking for with the utmost speed. The process was entrusted to the consultancy firm CBRE.

With this operation, Blackstone is further strengthening its commitment to Spain, where it has invested in the real estate sector through the purchase of Anticipa, the former real estate division of Catalunya Caixa, and of HI Partners, created from the hotel assets of Banco Sabadell.

Original story: Expansión (by Marisa Anglés)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Spain’s Banks Are Queueing Up to Finance Rental Housing

4 July 2018 – El Economista

One of the major challenges facing Spain in the residential market is the organisation of the rental home segment in light of the fragmentation that exists and the boom that is currently underway. There is currently a great deal of demand, but there is also a distinct lack of supply, and the new Housing Plan approved by the Government is not proving sufficient to incentivise the supply with the granting of aid to property developers that build rental housing. In light of this situation, we ask ourselves whether the opportunity that currently exists in Spain to organise the rental market is being taken advantage of?

“I think that the professionals and investors who have launched portfolios thanks to the creation of Socimis are taking good advantage of the opportunity, but I believe that some important players are simply not supporting the sector, such as the Public Administrations. Both nationally and locally, but above all locally, they are failing miserably and this is generating price tensions due to a lack of supply”, explains José Luis Ruiz Bartolomé, Director General of the consultancy firm Chamberí Asset Management.

Along the same lines, José María Cervera, Corporate CEO of Renta Corporación agrees and states that the public sector has been left on the sidelines. “Private capital has taken the initiative in this new segment of the market because it has seen a business opportunity and is looking for returns. And the public sector is going to have to enter, but now the arbitrage and those who are institutionalising it are in the private sector, and so they are going to place more rental properties on the market”.

For all of these reasons, during 2018, we are observing the creation of a new industry. Given that in Spain there are 18.5 million households, according to the latest figure from the Active Population Survey (EPA), and of those, 22% are rental homes, there are 4.7 million rental homes in total. Of that portfolio, only 5% are owned by institutional companies; the remaining 95% are owned by individuals.

“The Public Administration has done something important, which is to reorganise the real estate sector and separate property promotion and development activities, by creating Socimis that operate under a special framework. That has brought us closer to a situation that is more similar to those seen in other European countries. Now, we will have to see how the different players that are emerging in this market position themselves, and in two or three years, we will see the consolidation of this sector, which means that the Public Administrations will have to continue refining their regulations so that the sector can develop and be brought into line with those of other European countries”, says Nicolás Díaz-Saldaña, CEO at Témpore (Socimi of Sareb).

Nevertheless, not all of the experts in the sector concur. David Botín, Director of Real Estate Development at the ACR Group, says that this opportunity is not being leveraged. “It is possible that we are seeing the beginnings of a new rental market, but to date, just 22% of our households are renting and that supply is being provided almost exclusively by individuals. As such, it is very hard to fathom how we will reach the percentages seen in other countries such as Germany, where rental properties account for 48.3% of the market or the United Kingdom (36.6%). It is really hard to increase the stock in Spain because there are 19 million homes, and so a 1% increase means placing 190,000 more homes on the rental market, and that would take between three and four years (…). At that rate, nothing is going to happen quickly. No market works if there is no equilibrium between supply and demand. We need a large and varied supply for this market to work effectively”, he adds.

It is true that, historically, Spain has been a country of property owners, but the cultural and socio-economic changes that have been happening in recent years are drawing some new business lines, where the rental market is taking centre stage and is starting to become institutionalised. The new players in this market are: on the one hand, the Socimis, which are listed companies that serve as investment vehicles with tax benefits. The largest of them is Testa, which will debut on the stock market soon and which is owned by Santander, BBVA, Acciona and Merlin Properties. There are also others such as Azora, Vivenio (Renta Corporación), Témpore (Sareb) and Fidere, amongst the largest. Within this market, we can also include the servicers, which although they do not own properties, manage them, such as Solvia (Sabadell), Anticipa (Blackstone), Haya (Cerberus), Altamira (Apollo and Santander). And then, there are companies owned by the banks, such as Building Center (Caixabank) and other types of companies such as Alquiler Seguro, family offices, etc.

Therefore, now that the new players required to institutionalise this market are starting to be created, the next step is to develop a portfolio of assets. “We are going to need to reach agreements with property developers to build homes for rental (…), and at Sareb, we are going to use some of the land that we have for the co-development of rental homes (…)”, says Nicolás Saldaña.

That is a formula that is starting to spark interest. According to the experts, property developers have always been reluctant to enter the rental market, because they didn’t see it as their business, but in the end, the market trend has changed and whilst the sale and purchase segment will continue to exist, so too will the rental sector and property developers will have to participate (…).

The rental segment is a market that has always existed in the hands of individuals, but now, it is being professionalised, thanks to the arrival of overseas capital. “Investors have contributed many things, besides capital. They have contributed methodologies, rigour, professionalism (…). The banks were not open to this business before, they only financed promotion, but that has changed. For six months now, everyone has been wanting a piece of the pie and now there is a queue of financial institutions wanting to finance this type of business (…)”. Says José María Cervera (…).

Investing in residential properties is profitable. The gross return from investing in rental homes has increased to 7.3% from 6.3% a year ago, due to the strength of demand for rental properties, according to the real estate portfolio Idealista (…).

Original story: El Economista (by Luzmelia Torres)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Blackstone to List New Socimi with 4,000 Rental Homes Purchased from Sabadell

29 May 2018 – El Confidencial

One of the first funds to bet on the boom in rental housing in Spain, Blackstone, is on the verge of listing its fourth Socimi to specialise in this market, an area that is really blossoming.

The Socimi in question is Torbel Investments, a vehicle that primarily comprises the so-called Project Empire, a portfolio containing almost 4,000 homes, parking spaces, premises and storerooms that Banco Sabadell sold to the US fund two years ago.

At the time, the operation was worth around €600 million, although in net book value terms, Blackstone has recorded the assets at €113 million, according to Torbel’s most recent official accounts, corresponding to the year ending 2016.

Currently, the fund is on the home stretch of the procedures necessary with the CNMV – Spain’s National Securities and Markets Commission – to list the vehicle, whose natural destination is the MAB – Alternative Investment Market – given that Blackstone’s objective is, simply, to fulfil the demands of the Socimi regime to list the company so that it can benefit from the tax advantages.

That point means that this placement is completely different from the one being finalised by Testa, another giant in the rental housing sector in Spain, which is expected to make its debut on the main stock market in June, with €1.834 billion in assets.

Plethora of Socimis

Since it acquired these homes from Sabadell, Blackstone has managed all of the flats through its own servicer company, Anticipa, the firm that is behind the day to day operations of all of the large residential acquisitions carried out by the fund.

By geographical distribution, both in terms of property value and rental income, the main markets in which the Socimi has a presence are Madrid, Alicante, Murcia and Valencia, in other words, regions where the former entity CAM – Caja de Ahorros del Mediterráneo – had its greatest presence before it was acquired by Sabadell and whose foreclosed assets comprise this portfolio.

Blackstone is competing head to head with Testa to be the largest landlord in Spain, but it is adopting a very different strategy given that whilst the firm in which Santander, BBVA, Acciona and Merlin all hold stakes is opting to concentrate the greatest number of homes possible in a single company, the US fund is playing its hand by backing several smaller vehicles.

For the time being, Blackstone has already listed Fidere, which owns more than 5,700 homes, many of which have some kind of public protection;  it also has Albirana Properties, owner of another 5,000 rental assets; and Corona Patrimonial. But, in addition, the fund has been creating other Socimis such as Tourmalet and Pegarena.

All of these companies are expected to continue expanding their portfolios with assets from Project Quasar, the portfolio that Blackstone acquired from Santander, and which contains a sizeable portfolio of homes from the former Banco Popular.

Original story: El Confidencial (by Ruth Ugalde)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Blackstone Includes its own RE Manager in the Popular Divestment Deal

3 May 2018 – La Información

Blackstone’s real estate platform, Anticipa, is going to collaborate with Aliseda – founded at the time by Popular – in the management of its voluminous property portfolio. The US fund acquired Anticipa in 2014 when it was awarded Catalunya Caixa’s portfolio, and it has just taken control of Aliseda, as part of the mega-operation signed with Santander. The Cantabrian group included the real estate platform, together with a dozen real estate companies, in the €30 billion gross portfolio of properties that it transferred to the new company, in which Blackstone owns 51% of the capital and Santander held onto the remaining 49%.

Blackstone decided not to merge the companies but they are going to collaborate together, according to information submitted to the market about the syndicated loan signed to close Popular’s transaction. The toxic exposure divested by Santander in the deal known as “Project Quasar” has been valued at €10 billion net, given that there was a provision cushion amounting to 63% of the original value in the case of the foreclosed assets and 75% in the case of the loans.

The transaction was structured with the contribution of 30% in capital and 70% in debt. The bank and the fund are going to contribute almost €3 billion in capital and the remaining almost €7.333 billion will proceed from a financial structure led by Bank of America Merrill Lynch, together with Deutsche Bank, JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley, Parlex 15 Lux, The Royal Bank of Scotland and Sof Investment. The operation has been advised by the law firm Allen & Overy, amongst others.

The “Neptune” portfolio constituted to obtain the financing includes Aliseda in the perimeter along with numerous real estate companies and stakes held in them by Popular, including Tifany Investments, Corporación Financiera ISSOS, Pandantan (Mindanao), Taler Real Estate, Vilarma Gestión, Marina Golf, Popsol, Elbrus Properties, Cercebelo Assets, Eagle Hispania, Las Canteras de Abanilla and Canvives. A large proportion of the assets transferred are plots of land, together with residential homes, industrial warehouses, commercial properties, offices, garages and almost €1 billion gross exposure in hotels.

This operation is going to allow Santander to dramatically reduce its exposure to foreclosed assets from €41.1 billion to €10.4 billion – a figure that is reduced to a net of €5.2 billion thanks to the provisions it has recognised amounting to 50% of the initial value – but enabling it to benefit from the divestments as a shareholder of the company receiving the portfolios with a 49% stake.

The plan includes the use of Socimis

The fund’s divestment plans include constructing or transferring some of the assets to Socimis, a vehicle that Blackstone has made use of for previous operations because it offers tax benefits such as avoiding the need to pay Corporation Tax if they distribute dividends. In gross terms, residential assets accounted for almost one-third of the perimeter of the original properties involved in the transaction.

After leaving the Popular portfolio in the hands of Blackstone, Santander still has €4 billion net in foreclosed assets and €1.2 billion in doubtful financing that it wants to get rid of soon. The bank plans to repackage the assets by batch and put them on the market, where half a dozen entities and Sareb are exploring how to get rid of almost €48 billion gross – the bad bank alone is looking for a buyer for the €30 billion whose sale is being managed by Haya Real Estate, and Sabadell has several batches up for sale amounting to almost €11 billion.

The Cantabrian group acquired Popular when it had closed the chapter to clean up its real estate and now it wants to return to that position quickly. It was its real estate division to leave behind the “red numbers” this year or by the early stages of 2019 at the latest.

Original story: La Información (by Eva Contreras)

Translation: Carmel Drake