Who are the Key Players in the Spanish Real Estate Market?

4 May 2018 – El Mundo

House sales are on the rise, as are house prices and rentals. Mortgages are also continuing their upward trend. Moreover, the resurgence of real estate activity is now a reality that can be seen in the increase in the number of new construction and real estate companies.

A recent report published by Gedesco, a firm specialising in financing for companies, says that one in four of the businesses created in Spain during the first quarter of 2018 belonged to the construction or property development sectors.

That represented a volume of almost 6,000 companies, 1.75% more than during the same quarter in 2017. With respect to the last three months of last year, the increase amounts to 21.9%.

Some good news to help us try to forget the fact that 142,576 construction companies disappeared between 2008 and January 2017 – both building firms and property developers -, according to the latest data from Spain’s National Institute of Statistics (INE).

In eight years, the sector went from having almost 360,000 companies to having just 216,987, a reduction of 39%. If we take the look at real estate companies, there were 106,375 in 2008, whereas there were just 67,812 by 2017, almost half.

The data compiled by INE reveals another interesting fact: the construction companies that had more than 5,000 employees in 2008 have disappeared. Although there were actually only three (including building firms and property developers), by 2017, there were just nine companies with 500 or more workers.

Names such as Martinsa Fadesa – created by the businessman Fernando Martín-, Astroc (chaired by Enrique Bañuelos) and Nozar went into the history books of the Spanish real estate sector, after failing to survive the impact of the recession.

Good health

Now, the outlook for the sector is looking healthy, in line with the increase in construction activity, which last year recorded a 28.9% increase in new build permits, to 80,786. According to the latest data from the Ministry of Development, corresponding to the first two months of this year, new home permits rose by 17.4% to 8,035 in February. Estimates in the sector indicate an output of 150,000 homes p.a. for the next few years.

For Elisa Valero, Marketing Director at Gedesco, “the construction sector is back in business”. Nevertheless, the director adds that “the creation of businesses has never gone away, if we look back a few years, the property developers were still there, but the volume of business creation was much lower”.

Whereas 5,000 companies are now being created, in 2011 – at the height of the crisis – just 2,000 were being constituted (…).

Success stories

Another report published in recent weeks by the College of Registrars in Spain also shows that real estate activity in the country is gaining momentum. In 2017, the weight of construction companies and property developers over the total number of businesses constituted rose to 20%, and the rate of growth in relation to 2016 was 14%.

But, looking beyond the figures and back to specific cases (…) we see, for example, that two of the largest property developers of the current cycle were created less than three years ago. The firms in question: Neinor Homes and Aedas, which were created in 2015 and 2016, respectively.

The origins of Vía Célere, another of the important property developers these days, dates back to 2007, at the height of the crisis. The firm emerged after Juan Antonio Gómez-Pintado sold the company that he had chaired, Agofer, and created Vía Célere.

In all three cases, the presence of funds in the shareholding of the companies has stimulated their rates of investment to purchase land on which to build new homes.

Second chances

On the list of property developers that have been created recently, highlights include Kronos Homes, Stoneweg and Q21 Real Estate.

There is another noteworthy name on the current panorama, which, although it cannot be considered a new company, is a clear example of the resurgence of a business after the crisis. The company in question is Metrovacesa. Following a facelift by its creditor banks, it returned to the stock market at the beginning of this year, after abandoning it in 2013.

The firm, controlled by BBVA and Santander, stands out since it is the largest landowner in Spain, amongst the listed property developers, with 6.1 million m2 of land spread over the whole country, with the capacity to build 37,500 homes.

Business transformations such as the one involving Metrovacesa were commonplace during the crisis and resulted in the appearance of new players on the real estate stage.

Another illustrative example has been the birth of the so-called servicers. These companies have emerged in recent years from the former real estate subsidiaries of the banks.

Altamira (whose origins are found in Banco Santander), Servihabitat (La Caixa), and Solvia (Banco Sabadell), amongst others, are fulfilling the mission entrusted to them: to take on the bank’s property, enabling them to complete their clean-ups and to divest the assets by taking advantage of the current boom in activity.

The servicers, whose main activity is located in the Community of Madrid, are also responsible for selling the properties of another one of the stars created in recent years: Sareb, commonly known as the bad bank.

In 2018, that company celebrates its 5th birthday, and during its short life, it has taken over the properties of the entities that have been intervened as a result of the bank restructuring (…).

In recent months, Sareb has also started to market its first new build developments constructed on own land that it holds in its portfolio. In addition, last week, it launched a campaign to sell 3,314 homes along the coast, 95% of which will be lived in for the first time by their new owners.

The Socimis

If there is one group of players that stands out above all of the other newly created real estate companies it is the Socimis.

The real estate investment companies started to trade on the Spanish stock exchange in 2012 as a result of a regulatory change introduced by the Government that gave them free reign to do so.

The Socimis Entrecampos and Promorent were the first to make their debuts. Six years on, there are 51 such companies and, according to some estimates, that number may reach 100 in the future. Merlin, Axiare, Hispania, Lar España, Testa and Colonial – the largest by volume – have all been created in the last four years and are now competing with property developers, such as Neinor and Aedas, on the real estate stage and on the stock market.

In April, one of the newest faces, Sareb’s Socimi Témpore, made its debut. In its first month on the Alternative Investment Market (MAB), it has seen its share price appreciate by 3.85%. When it made its stock market debut, the company’s valuation amounted to €152 million (…).

Original story: El Mundo (by María José Gómez-Serranillos)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Quabit Agrees €15M Financing Line With Alpin Equities To Buy Land

11 October 2017 – Expansión

The list real estate company Quabit has announced a new line of financing to partially fund its growth plan. On this occasion, the company controlled by the construction group Rayet has signed an agreement with Alpin Equities, which is leading a group of funds that are finaning the loan, amounting to €15 million.

The conditions of the loan, which has a 3-year term, include the possible conversion of all or some of the outstanding loan balance into shares in Quabit if “certain circumstances” arise.

The operation with Alpin Equities is the third alliance of its kind that Quabit has closed in recent months. Until now, the residential property developer had reached two financial agreements with the fund Avenue Capital, for a combined total of €100 million.

The objective of these three lines of credit is to allow the real estate company, which emerged a decade ago from the merger between Astroc, Landscape and Rayet Inmobiliaria, to close new land purchases, some of which are in very advanced phases of negotiation, say sources at the company, such as the construction of 14 new developments, which will result in turnover for the company of almost €180 million.

Following these agreements, Quabit’s residential portfolio will amount to almost 1 million m2 of land for the construction of 4,700 homes, whereby exceeding its own objective for the period between now and 2021 (4,090 homes).

The company has announced that it will convene an extraordinary shareholders meeting soon to approve a non-monetary capital increase, with which to materialise the transfer of several plots of land from Rayet, as well as the operations closed with Avenue.

Original story: Expansión (by Rocío Ruiz)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Reyal Urbis Files For Spain’s Second Largest Bankruptcy

21 June 2017 – Cinco Días

The long-awaited death of Reyal Urbis is approaching. The real estate company has failed to convince a majority of its creditors to accept the proposed agreement presented by the entity chaired by Rafael Santamaría, which included significant discounts of between 80% and 90% of a total debt balance amounting to €4,600 million. It is the second largest liquidation ever in history, following that of the property developer Martinsa-Fadesa, which folded with a debt of around €7,000 million.

The proposed agreement presented by the company has not received sufficient backing given that in the case of the ordinary debt, it only obtained favourable votes from 32.7% of the creditors; another 37.79% voted against the proposal and the remaining 29% abstained, according to legal sources. In the case of the syndicated loan, the votes did not reach the 75% threshold either.

The bankruptcy administrator, namely, the audit firm BDO, is obliged to communicate the result of the vote that takes place in Commercial Court number 6 in Madrid, where the judge will issue the proposed liquidation ruling, with an equity black hole of €3,436 million.

The liquidation of Reyal Urbis was finalised after its major creditors, including Sareb and the opportunistic funds that had acquired some of the liabilities in recent weeks, rejected the proposed agreement, as disclosed by Cinco Días at the end of May.

The company has liabilities worth more than €3,200 million corresponding to a syndicated loan, in which Sareb holds a crucial stake, with more than €1,000 million proceeding from loans from the former savings banks. In addition, Reyal Urbis owed almost €900 million in ordinary debt and more than €400 million to the Tax Authorities. In fact, the real estate company is the largest debtor on the list of overdue debtors published by the Tax Authorities.

The property developer is dying just a decade after its merger which saw it become one of the large real estate companies in the country, together with Martinsa-Fadesa, Colonial and Astroc. Its President, Rafael Santamaría, a technical architect by training, has spent his whole life working for the family business. He was appointed CEO in 1985 and took over from his father as President in 1997. In 2006, he starred in one of the largest deals in the sector, after acquiring Urbis from Banesto for €3,300 million.

But that joy was short-lived. The burst of the real estate bubble dragged him down, just like it did Martinsa, Habitat and Nozar. The company filed for voluntary creditors’ bankruptcy in February 2013 after Sareb, BBVA and Santander refused to refinance its debt.

Santamaría’s last ditch attempt to save the company came with an aggressive liquidation proposal. That plan included discounts of 90% on the ordinary loans. In the case of the syndicated loan, the offer included the “dación en pago” of assets, which would have meant accepting discounts of around 80%. In turn, the Tax Authorities negotiated a unilateral payment plan for the €400 million owed.

That aggressive plan did not seduce the creditors, who have seen the possibility of recovering their capital go up in smoke, choosing instead the option of liquidating the company’s remaining assets, which are currently worth almost €1,200 million.

Original story: Cinco Días (by Alfonso Simón Ruiz)

Translation: Carmel Drake

The New RE Kings: Professional & Discreet

7 November 2016 – El País

The property sector still suffers from its soiled reputation as the cause of the bubble that led to the ruin of so many real estate companies, savings banks and families, ultimately bringing down the Spanish economy. But in a very discrete way, the sector is recovering its strength and real estate companies are becoming involved in major corporate operations once again, from purchases to mergers to stock exchange IPOs. The large corporations have also turned their business models on their heads. Whilst previously they undertook all kinds of activity (from property development to rental), we are now seeing specialist companies, many of whom are controlled by overseas investment funds.

The kings of property have also lost the glamour that those self-made businessman, such as Enrique Bañuelos (Astroc), Luis Portillo (Colonial) and Fernando Martín (Martinsa) enjoyed as their fortunes shined on the Forbes rich list (…). Nowadays, the new real estate companies do not have a visible face but rather are professional undertakings, and in many cases the managers are anonymous. The Socimis have taken up their place alongside the private equity funds and the large international investors such as the US businessman George Soros; Wang Jianlin, the richest man in China; and the Mexican magnate Carlos Slim.

Real estate stalwarts, such as Martinsa-Fadesa, Metrovacesa and Astroc, whose names used to feature on property developments, were left for dust, devoured by the black whole of gigantic debt. Their place has been occupied by the Socimis Merlin, Hispania, Lar and Axiare, whose names are barely known by the majority of the general public; by property developers such as Vía Célere and Neinor Homes, some of which have been created by overseas capital either investing directly in their capital or through partnerships for specific projects; and even by the former real estate arms of the banks, most of which are now owned by international funds.

One of the few exceptions to the empires from the last decade that has managed to survive is Colonial, which has cleaned up and transformed into a company that specialises in rental properties, and which is back with new investment plans. Last month, the company chaired by Juan José Brugera acquired 15.1% of the Socimi Axiare for €135 million. “Most of the companies that are left are a selection of the most professional enterprises”, said the Professor of Applied Economics at the Pompeu Fabra University, José García Montalvo. (…).

“The new managers of the real estate companies are more professional”, argues García Montalvo. In addition, the companies are more specialised and some even focus only on specific segments. One example is Lar España, a Socimi that specialises in shopping centre management (although it does also own a few office buildings), which has launched a €240 million investment plan for next year, supported by the major funds that comprise its shareholders, such as Franklin Templeton, Blackrock and Pimco.

Another example is Hispania, in which the US multimillionaires and fund managers George Soros and John Paulson hold stakes. It has also grown rapidly since it debuted on the stock market in 2014 and now manages assets amounting to almost €1,500 million. Its strategy is clear: to grow in size. Although it failed in its purchase of Realia, the company led by Concha Osácar and Fernando Gumuzio has absorbed the hotel Socimi Bay and all of the experts in the sector have tipped it to play an important role in upcoming operations. (…).

Original story: El País (by Ramón Muñoz and Lluís Pellicer)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Spain’s New ‘Property Kings’

2 March 2015 – El Mundo

2006 was a key year for Fernando Martín. Not only did the Chairman of Martinsa hold the presidency of Real Madrid for a short time, he also acquired the real estate company Fadesa for €4,000 million. Two years later, the burst of the (real estate) bubble put an end to his reign. Since then, the businessman has tried to resist (his downfall) until this week, when the banks and Sareb put an end to his adventures, by plunging Martinsa into bankruptcy. His creditors say that throughout the bankruptcy negotiations, Martín has demanded that he continue in his role as Chairman of the company and also retain his company car, his secretary and his salary of around €1.5 million, even though the company’s activity has been minimal.

With this defeat falls the last of the property lords who led the Spanish economy’s most important sector during the boom years, with negotiation tactics that many associate with lobster lunches and (VIP) boxes at football matches.

However, Martín’s fall coincides with the rebirth of the empire. Last year, institutional investors closed transactions amounting to €14,000 million in Spain (a volume of activity that was only exceeded in 2006 and 2007) and data from the housing market also shows that the property sector has turned the corner towards recovery. In fact, in 2014, the number of new mortgages taken out increased for the first time, after six years in decline.

This rebirth is accompanied by new businessmen with profiles more akin to those of bankers than (property) developers. The property kings’ successors are more used to having canopes for lunch, in true British style, and many of the important decisions about the future developments that will see the return of cranes to Spain’s landscape, are no longer being made in (VIP) boxes at the Bernabéu, but instead in offices in Madrid, the City of London, Dallas, New York and Beijing.

Former developers, such as Fernando Martín, Enrique Bañuelos (Astroc) and Rafael Santamaría (Reyal Urbis) have now made way for Wang Jianlin (Wanda), Ismael Clemente (Merlin Properties), Juan Pepa (Lone Star) and Concha Osácar (Azora).

These are executives who no longer depend on the banks to finance their projects; instead they are backed by large insurance companies, sovereign funds and even highly qualified investors, such as George Soros and Carlos Slim.

“We are facing a paradigm shift. During the boom (years), developers wanted to make more than they were able to and they focused on stocking up on land, due to the peculiarities of that raw material. However, (property) development is like manufacturing and no manufacturer purchases (his) raw materials 10 years in advance. When we hit economic difficulties, that model collapsed. Now, we are seeing different management and development models exist side by side. We are moving towards a more professional model, in which fewer developers compete, with stronger brands”, explains Luis Ruiz Bartolomé, co-author of the book ‘Return, property, return’ (‘Vuelve, ladrillo, vuelve’).

Under this model, the large investors, cooperatives and local developers that have managed to survive the difficult years, are going to co-exist. All of them will compete with a different mentality and with new ways of managing assets.

“The new players in the real estate sector will have to analyse the current key factors (effectively) to enable them to have a more global profile through increased specialisation and professionalization”, says the partner responsible for Real Estate at KPMG, Javier López Torres.

Wang Jianlin (pictured above)

On his trips to Spain, the Chinese tycoon has enjoyed evenings at the Teatro Real, but he also likes football. In fact, his first investments in this country were in the Torre España – a building he bought from Santander – and a stake in Atletico de Madrid. Now, the owner of the Wanda Group wants to launch the development of the so-called Wang mega-complex, a residential and leisure park that may be constructed on land that used to house former barracks in Madrid. Nevertheless, to date, the Asian millionaire’s investments in Spain have merely represented a token gesture, in the context of the global figures for his real estate business. The Wanda Group is the largest land-owner in China and it is constructing the largest residential skyscraper in London, next to the Thames. According to the Chinese press, Jianlin is also considering the purchase of the AC Milan football team.

Jaime Echegoyen

It is likely that when the Chairman of Sareb was CEO at Bankinter and Head of Barclays in Spain, he never imagined that it would end up holding the reins of the bad bank. This banker, who always works with office door open, is responsible for managing the real estate giant that was created in 2012 with 200,000 assets (80% financial and 20% property) amounting to €50,781 million. Echegoyen’s team is working on the completion of 1,000 homes (which it received ‘unfinished’ from the banks) across 52 sites. In addition, it is studying the development of some of the 5,000 plots of land that it received as inheritance, to be able to better market them before 2027, when the semi-public company will have to be dissolved.

Juan Pepa

This Argentine, who lives in London, is the Managing Director of the North American fund Lone Star and in 2013, he managed to convince US investors to back Spanish property. When Pepa comes to Spain and announces that his is going to launch the largest developer in the country this Spring, he does so with a level of enthusiasm that may surprise (people) after the hard times experienced in recent years. “We are going to fill the country with cranes”, he likes to declare. In recent years, Lone Star has purchased the real estate company Neinor from Kutxabank and Eurohypo’s loan business (together with JP Morgan) to launch this project. With a financial background and an MBA, Pepa plays polo and is the patron of the Pro Alvear Foundation, which works to promote education and technology in the La Pampa province of Argentina. This executive, who is less than 40 years-old, does not like the press referring to his fund as a vulture; he assures them that he has not come to Spain with a short-term view and although, he does not provide any details about his project, he says that the proof will be in the fact that it will generate value for the Spanish economy.

Ismael Clemente

Also a banker by trade – he used to work at Deustche Bank for example – but more closely related to property than Echegoyen and Pepa, Clemente founded Magic Real Estate during the worst year of the crisis (2012) and now is the head of Merlin Properties, the Socimi that debuted on the stock exchange in an IPO that raised €1,250 million.

George Soros and Carlos Slim

The tycoon who devalued the pound in 1992 and the Mexican multi-millionaire represent the many international investors who want to get involved in the recovery of the (real estate) sector through their financial investments. Soros is one of Hispania’s shareholders, whilst Slim has taken a stake in FCC. From there, he wants to acquire Realia to complete his business empire, which includes valuable assets from around the world, in many different sectors; América Móvil is one of the jewels in his crown.

Leopoldo Moreno

In addition to the businesses of large investors, cooperatives are also proving themselves to be a successful formula for development, as banks have closed the (financing) taps. The CEO of Ibosa has known how to take advantage of this model with numerous developments in the Community of Madrid.

Santos Montoro

This businessman from Murcia is a good example of how a family developer can compete in the (new) real estate model that has been imposed by the investment funds. In fact, his company, Monthisa (which was created in 1968) has managed to reinvent itself during this crisis to form a partnership with the fund H.I.G. to manage the Bull portfolio, a batch of apartments and garages that the US vehicle purchased from Sareb.

Enrique Bañuelos

After the fiasco involving Astroc, this deposed king has resumed his activity in London. From the City he wants to develop (property) in Spain through his new company called Veremonte and participate in BCNWorld, the tourism and leisure macro project that the Catalan authorities are looking to build

Original story: El Mundo (by María Vega)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Judge Begins Liquidation Proceedings For Landscape

17 February 2015 – ABC

Commercial Court number 10 in Madrid has ordered the liquidation of Landscape Gestión de Activos, the real estate company created as a result of the merger between Astroc, Rayet Promoción and the former Landscape at the beginning of 2008.

During the liquidation phase, the directors of the company are suspended from exercising their powers of management and decision over the assets for all purposes, as published today in the Official Bulletin of the Commercial Registry (El Boletín Oficial del Registro Mercantil or Borme).

Landscape also announced the resignation of its Board of Directors, including members that joined from Quabit Inmobiliaria.

Recently, the judge appointed the law firm Watson, Farley & Williams Spain as the bankruptcy administrator of the company and ruled that the debtor would retain the powers of management and decision over the assets, but that it would be subject to the procedures set out by the bankruptcy administrator.

The edict published by the BOE also highlighted that the company had requested the liquidation of its own assets.

Original story: ABC

Translation: Carmel Drake