Lar to Invest €200M Buying Retail Assets After Divesting Other Assets Worth €425M

25 April 2019 – El Economista

Lar is entering a new phase in which it will specialise in retail after divesting all of its offices and logistics assets. The Socimi has received total proceeds of €425 million from its recent sales, of which it intends to dedicate around €200 million to new purchases over the next three years.

According to José Luis del Valle, President of Lar España Real Estate, the Socimi is now going to focus on operations in the commercial segment only, including both asset purchases and new developments, to continue to expand its €1.5 billion portfolio.

Lar is coming to the end of the development of Vilanova Park in Sagunto (Valencia), Lagasca 99 in Madrid and Lagoh in Sevilla and so it has the capacity to take on more promotion projects in the future, according to Miguel Pereda, CEO of the Socimi.

Following its recent asset sales, Lar has approved the distribution of an extraordinary dividend amounting to €25 million, charged against the accounts for 2018, equivalent to €0.80 per share. This represents the largest dividend in the Socimi’s history and is 67% higher than last year’s payout.

On Wednesday, the Socimi completed the sale of the last office building left in its portfolios – the property located at Calle Eloy Gonzalo in Madrid, which is now in the hands of Swiss Life.

In addition to its forecast new operations, Lar is also working on the repositioning of its assets, with plans to invest €40 million in total.

Original story: El Economista (by Alba Brualla)

Translation/Summary: Carmel Drake

Sale of Hesperia Tower Threatened by Catalan Political Uncertainty

27 November 2017 – Eje Prime

The political situation in Cataluña is also affecting the sale of tall buildings, such as that of the NH Collection Tower in Barcelona. Known until last year as the Hesperia Tower, this five-star hotel owned by Grupo Inversor Hesperia (Gihsa) is struggling to find a new owner due to the governmental instability and, therefore, economic uncertainty that exists in the region.

Located in L’Hospitalet de Llobregat, the asset is situated next to the Fira complex in the suburban town and has been on the market since December 2010. The Hesperia Group put this hotel, along with five others, on the market, due to the debt that was weighing down the company at the time, estimated to amount to more than €600 million.

Now, the interested companies are not willing to go ahead with the purchase of the asset due to the political situation in Cataluña, amongst other factors, according to Crónica Global.

A year ago, the hotel company repositioned Hesperia Tower within a plan agreed with NH Hoteles, which took over the management of 31 assets from the entity led by José Antonio Castro after paying €31 million. Hesperia’s current portfolio contains around thirty hotels in Spain, as well as a 9% stake in the NH hotel Group.

Original story: Eje Prime

Translation: Carmel Drake

Blackstone To Merge Popular & Sabadell’s Hotels To Create Tourism Giant

18 October 2017 – El Confidencial

Blackstone has surprised the market once again with the purchase of the hotel company HI Partners from Banco Sabadell for €630.7 million; the operation will turn the fund into one of the major players in the Spanish tourism sector overnight. Nevertheless, this acquisition is actually just the tip of the iceberg of a much larger objective, which is directly linked to the largest real estate operation seen in Europe in recent times: the €30,000 million in toxic assets that Blackstone acquired from Santander-Popular in the summer.

That huge portfolio, comprising foreclosed properties and non-performing loans, contained €800 million linked to hotel assets, some of which Blackstone wants to use to fatten up HI Partners’ portfolio, according to sources in the know. Those same sources define that move as a medium-term strategy, which will allow it to create a hotel giant, capable of competing with other large platforms such as Hispania, before debuting it on the stock market in a few years time.

Although the fund analysed its purchase of Sabadell hotels as a stand-alone operation, Blackstone’s roadmap forecasts the possible generation of synergies with its other large portfolio of hotel assets in Spain, in other words, those proceeding from Banco Popular.

As El Confidencial published, when Blackstone definitively closed the purchase of 51% of the Santander-Popular portfolio, the fund’s objective was to gradually divide it up, taking advantage of the range of vehicles that it already owns in Spain, such as the Socimis Fidere, Albirana and Corona Patrimonial, and undertake direct sales of both assets and debt portfolios.

HI Partners now forms part of that same strategy. The plan is to transfer only those hotels that comply with the group’s business model, which focuses on high category coastal hotels and very selective urban establishments. The Hilton Inn Sevilla, Gran Hotel La Toja in Pontevedra, Tamisa Golf in Mijas and Hotel Ayre in Oviedo are some of the assets that were held under the Popular umbrella.

Nevertheless, given that the bulk of this portfolio is debt whose collateral are these establishments, the transfer of the assets chosen to form part of HI Partners will have to be performed gradually, on an asset by asset basis, depending on the progress of the negotiations regarding the loan status in each case. Blackstone has time on its side since its objective with these acquisitions is to take advantage of the growth curve of the Spanish tourism sector and to do so through an asset repositioning strategy.

Management team

After selling HI Partners, along with its 14 best establishments, Sabadell will now continue with more than a dozen lower category hotels under its umbrella, which it plans to transfer gradually. All of the bank’s debt secured by hotel collateral also remained inside its perimeter for the time being; until now that was being managed by the team led by Alejandro Hernández-Puértolas and Santiago Fisas, and it will probably end up being sold off through Solvia.

The HI Partners management team will continue to be linked to the hotel group even after the completion of the sale to Blackstone, once the operation has received the green light from the Competition authorities. The team will face the challenge of continuing to make the company grow by repositioning the hotels, like they have been doing since 2015, in line with Blackstone’s plans for Popular’s establishments.

Original story: El Confidencial (by R. Ugalde)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Empark’s Owners Engage JP Morgan To Sell The Giant For €850M

19 May 2017 – Expansión

Empark is back on the market. The Portuguese controlling shareholders of the car park company have engaged JP Morgan to find a buyer for an entity worth around €850 million, on the basis of the prices and valuations of other similar transactions in the sector. Empark is the leading car park company in Spain with 500,000 parking spaces in the Iberian Peninsula, the United Kingdom and Turkey. The firm’s gross operating profit (EBITDA) amounts to €65 million and its debt, which the company has been restructuring over the last year, amounts to €475 million.

Following the most recent changes, Empark’s shareholder structure is still dominated by the Portuguese investors Silva & Silva, which own 78% of the company. The second largest shareholder is the Chinese conglomerate Haitong, with a 14% stake.

The company’s control vehicle is dominated by the founding families, who participate in the management of the group. The main executives of Empark are José Augusto Tavares, Pedro Mendes (Executive President) and Antonio Moura.

The last attempt to sell the company was made in 2015. Then, the company progressed to the stage of selecting a buyer, Vinci Park (Ardian), but the operation did not come to fruition. Vinci Park reported the breakdown in its negotiations to buy Empark in July of that year after finalising its due diligence work, which produced unsatisfactory findings. Ultimately, the company was concerned about Empark’s high exposure to town halls which, following the local elections held that year, were considering “re-municipalisation”.

Sources close to the fund Ardian say that they are not interested in the operation at the moment. The infrastructure investment giant put Indigo (formerly Vinci park) up for sale this year for around €3,000 million. The sale of Empark is quite complex, given that the shares of the car park company serve, in turn, to secure the shareholders’ personal loans.

According to sources close to the operation, the Portuguese shareholders have dragged the other shareholders into the sale and have been given until the beginning of October to find a buyer. They are keen to leverage the ‘drag along clause’ set out in the company’s shareholder agreements (which means that when a third party makes an offer to purchase the company by buying all of its share capital, then the shareholder that has the ‘drag along right’ may force the other shareholders to sell their stakes to the buyer).

Sources in the sector believe that if Pedro Mendes and his partners do not find an investor with a reasonable offer in time, Haitong may push ahead with the operation by itself or with one of Empark’s creditor banks. Deutsche Bank is one of the company’s latest lenders. The German bank manages the fund RREEF Infrastructure.

One of the possible candidates to analyse the purchase operation is the fund First State, which acquired España Parkia from the Nordic fund EQT and Mutua Madrileña in 2016 for just over €300 million. The US fund Alinda is also very active in Spain. It has made an offer to buy Isolux’s car park portfolio. Another candidate could be the Chinese firm Haitong

Original story: Expansión (by C. Morán)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Axiare’s Net Profit Rose By 145% To €91.3M In YTD Sept16

15 November 2016 – Expansión

Axiare has closed the first nine months of the year with a net profit of €91.3 million, up by 145% compared with the same period in 2015.

The Socimi, in which Colonial holds a stake, generated revenues from rental income of €30.5 million during the third quarter of the year, up by 22.5%, thanks to its “strategy involving the active management of its property portfolio”.

During the first nine months of the year, the company has signed 22 new contracts and renegotiated the rental agreements for a gross leasable area (GLA) of more than 91,000 m2.

The value of Axiare’s asset portfolio exceeded €1,000 million as at June 2016, which represents a 25% increase over its acquisition price. By type of asset, 68% of the portfolio’s value corresponds to the office sector; 19% to logistics assets; and 13% to retail.

Original story: Expansión (by Rebeca Arroyo)

Translation: Carmel Drake

The Banks Want To Regain Control Of Their RE Servicers

14 October 2016 – El Confidencial

Just three years after selling the management of their real estate companies to large international funds, Spain’s large banks are engaged in a widespread movement to try to regain control of those companies once again and as such, achieve absolute freedom to sell their properties by other means.

The reason? There are basically two motives. On the one hand, the banks consider that more profitable options exist to allow them to divest property without penalising their capital; and on the other hand, they want to save the management commissions that they are having to pay the funds for taking over the reins of these real estate companies, known in the jargon of the sector as “servicers”, and whose fees rise in line with the volume of assets managed.

Looking back…in December 2012, Banesto agreed the sale of Aktua to Centerbridge; in September 2013, Caixabank sold 51% of Servihabitat to TPG and Bankia sold 100% of its real estate company to Cerberus; two months later, Santander reached an agreement with Apollo to sell 85% of Altamira and Popular sold Värde and Kennedy Wilson 51% of Aliseda. Sabadell and BBVA, the other two large Spanish banks, chose to continue to manage their assets internally; the first through Solvia and the second through Anida.

Nevertheless, the majority of these marriages of convenience have been suffering from serious tensions for a while now; and these differences of opinion are causing the banks to begin to try to regain control of their real estate companies. According to El Confidencial, Popular is trying to reach an agreement with Värde to repurchase Aliseda and transfer its assets to the so-called “Proyect Sunrise”, a kind of bad bank through which it seeks to divest up to €6,000 million.

Santander has also been engaged in negotiations for severals months with Apollo, from which it already snatched a series of assets from the former real estate fund Banif to transfer them to Metrovacesa, the real estate company that has just finished merging its properties (not its land) with Merlin. In fact, that operation is an example of the type of project that the sector is now committed to, and which has caused all kinds of rumours to circulate about potential alliances.

For example, the entity chaired by Ana Patricia Botín and BBVA have found another way of getting rid of almost 7,000 homes (between the two of them) in the form of Testa, the rental housing subsidiary owned by Merlin. The two banks are deconsolidating all of the real estate assets that they are transferring to both Merlin and Testa, because they hold minority stakes, and this allows them to generate liquidity because the former is a listed company and the latter will be listed on the MAB from next year and on the main stock exchange within five years.

In the case of Servihabitat, Caixabank will be able to start to seriously consider a movement of this kind from next year, given that for the first four years (of the ten-year duration of their alliance), TPG has a special grace period, according to sources familiar with the agreement.

The case of Bankia is special, because the bulk of its assets were transferred to Sareb and it accounts for the real turnover of Haya Real Estate, the “servicer” created by Cerberus, given that the company was created with €12,200 million of the entity’s real estate assets and with €36,000 million from Sareb. Moreover, the fund acquired the companies Reser Subastas and Gesnova from Bankia.

Last year, Gesnova lost the entire portfolio of contracts that it held with the former real estate fund of Bankia, which was sold to Goldman Sachs, a blow that was compounded by Sareb’s decision to award Solvia the management of the portfolio of foreclosed assets that until then had been managed by Gesnova. In total, Haya saw a quarter of its revenues go up in smoke.

“All of the banks are looking at how to regain control of their servicers because they are realising that better alternatives exist, above all following the Metrovacesa operation, and in light of the fact that the real estate market is recovering”, said one source. “Everyone is talking to everyone else, lots of potential alternatives are being presented, which may or may not materialise, but the reality is that there is going to be a lot of movement in the world of the servicers over the next two years” said one executive from the sector.

Meanwhile, the funds are willing to withdraw from their investments provided the entities are willing to stump up the cash. In the case of Apollo, the figure is likely to exceed €1,000 million and in the case of Värde €800 million, according to sources. (…).

Original story: El Confidencial (by R. Ugalde)

Translation: Carmel Drake