Private Companies Start Building VPO Rental Homes Due to Lack of Public Resources

11 June 2019 – Idealista

Housing and the need for public-private partnerships to build affordable homes was one of the hot topics during the recent election campaigns. But the reality is that the public administrations do not have the resources to fund any substantial residential programs.

In addition, Spain has traditionally been a country of homeowners and so most of the few affordable homes that the state has been building have been sold rather than put up for rent. This represents a major problem for the growing population of renters in the country, which some estimate currently account for 23% of total demand, compared with the European average of 34%. The Bank of Spain’s official figure for 2017 was 16%. Regardless, private companies are entering the market to fill the gap.

One such example is Azora, which has been managing social housing for rent since 2004 through its fund Lazora. It estimates that Spain needs 2.5 million mostly affordable rental homes to bring it in line with the European average. That would require an investment of approximately €300 billion over the next few years, a mammoth figure.

Azora actually sold its Lazora portfolio, containing almost 7,000 homes (private and social) to CBRE and Madison in 2018. They committed to continue investing capital in the sector and have already committed more than €200 million in various projects to build 1,200 more homes.

Azora still manages almost 14,000 social and private rental homes across the country and has recently been joined in the sector by the property developer AQ Acentor, the real estate arm of the German fund Aquila Capital. Specifically, AQ Acentor is planning to build 1,450 VPO rental homes in Villaverde, Barcelona, Valencia and Málaga. The numbers are not huge but they will go some way to plugging the gap.

Meanwhile, in the public sector, according to data from the Ministry of Development, 5,167 VPO homes were built in 2018, of which just 353 (6.8%) were dedicated to rental. In 2017, 4,938 VPO homes were constructed, the lowest absolute number since records began, of which 355 (7.1%) were dedicated to rental. Madrid accounted for most of the new VPO homes in 2018 (2,418, of which just 78 were dedicated to rental).

Azora considers that more institutional investment is required to make up for the housing deficit and that “to attract such capital, we need solutions and policies that promote and facilitate the construction of new rental homes”. It remains to be seen whether the politicians can put their ideological differences aside and come up with a clear and consensual housing policy for the benefit of the country at large.

Original story: Idealista (by P. Martínez-Ameida & Ana P. Alarcos)

Translation/Summary: Carmel Drake

Bank of Spain: Spain’s Housing Market is Not Overvalued

9 June 2019 – Eje Prime

The Bank of Spain does not think that a real estate bubble exists. The institution’s Director General of Economics and Statistics, Óscar Arce, has assured that the bank does not consider that the housing market is “overvalued in general”. Nevertheless, he is following the sector “very closely” given its history.

Arce highlighted several differences between the current climate and the previous cycle including the fact that price rises now are not uniform across all regions or cities. In fact, according to the latest data published by the Bank of Spain, average house prices rose by 6.8% YoY during Q1 2019, driven by Madrid, Barcelona, some parts of the coast and the islands.

Original story: Eje Prime 

Translation/Summary: Carmel Drake

Unicaja Negotiates Sale of 3,700 Refinanced Mortgages Worth €250M

24 April 2019 – El Confidencial

Unicaja Banco could become one of the first entities in Spain to sell refinanced mortgages whose borrowers are now up to date with their payments.

The Málaga-based entity has engaged EY to coordinate the sale of 3,700 doubtful loans worth €250 million. The mortgages went unpaid during the crisis and were all refinanced, such that the borrowers are now up to date on their payments.

To date, barely any Spanish entities have tried to sell assets of this kind. But pressure from the ECB to improve returns is forcing Unicaja to give it a shot. The mortgages are still classified as doubtful, since the Bank of Spain establishes that a borrower has to pay 12 monthly instalments and reduce some of the capital for a loan to be considered normal.

The sale of the mortgages by Unicaja has been called Project Biznaga and forms part of a larger asset divestment process being undertaken by the entity, worth around €1 billion. The sale is generating a lot of interest amongst international investors and is going ahead in parallel to the bank’s merger negotiations with Liberbank, which are in their final stages.

Unicaja has one of the lowest exposures to problem assets in the Spanish financial sector and the highest levels of coverage. According to the latest official figures, as at December 2018, it had €3.6 billion of foreclosed and doubtful assets and a coverage ratio of 57%.

Original story: El Confidencial (by Jorge Zuloaga)

Translation/Summary: Carmel Drake

Bank of Spain Warns of Mismatch Between Housing Supply and Demand

11 April 2019 – El Confidencial

According to the Bank of Spain, there is a mismatch between the homes that buyers are demanding and those that are available for sale. Indeed, that is one of the main conclusions of the latest report published by the supervisory body entitled the “Recent evolution of the housing market in Spain”.

According to the report, one of the key characteristics of the Spanish property market is its high degree of heterogeneity by region, type of home (new and second-hand) and buyer nationality. “The characteristics of the homes demanded do not necessarily match with the available supply, in certain places, and may differ in terms of size, quality and location”.

In addition, the Bank of Spain warns about the difficulties that young people are facing when it comes to affording a home, as a result of their precarious working conditions. Their situation is further compounded by changes made in recent years regarding tax breaks (the removal of them) for buying a home and the growth of the rental sector.

The Bank’s analysis focuses on Madrid and Barcelona, which are both very close to the peaks of the boom in terms of rental prices. Meanwhile, house prices are currently around their 2006 levels.

Nevertheless, according to the report, it does now seem easier to obtain a mortgage or at least one with more favourable terms for the borrower. Interest rates have decreased and lending periods (mortgage terms) have increased. Approval criteria and general financing conditions have also been relaxed.

Original story: El Confidencial (by E.S.)

Translation/Summary: Carmel Drake

Santander Transfers Land Worth €4bn to a Newly Created Land Manager

18 March 2019 – Cinco Días

Santander is making history once again. The entity has created a company to which it is going to transfer all of the land proceeding from its exposure to property, which has a gross book value of around €4 billion (and a net value of around €2 billion).

The purpose of this new vehicle, known as Landmark Iberia, will be to advance with the urban planning procedures required to generate value from these plots and to continue selling the land, with the ultimate goal of selling the whole company if an attractive offer is received.

Landmark is not like any of the bank’s previous projects given that it is not a servicer. Its job is to generate value from the plots that it receives from Santander – it is the first entity of its kind in Spain.

The operation forms part of the group’s overall strategy to reduce its exposure to real estate, in accordance with the instructions of the Bank of Spain. Last year, Santander decreased the value of its exposure by 55.9% in gross terms to €15.1 billion, according to the entity’s annual accounts, thanks to its operations with Blackstone (project Quasar) and Cerberus.

Landmark will likely become the largest landowner in the country, alongside other major companies in the sector such as the property developer Metrovacesa and the fund Cerberus.

Original story: Cinco Días 

Translation/Summary: Carmel Drake

Spain’s New Mortgage Act will Enter Into Force on 17 June

18 March 2019 – Expansión

The new Mortgage Act was published in the BOE on Saturday and it will enter into force in three months time, on 17 June 2019.

The legislation reflects an EU directive, which seeks to increase the transparency of mortgage contracts to try to reduce the high rates of litigation in the banking system.

It means that Spanish legislation will, for the first time, require the banks to bear all of the costs associated with the formalisation of a mortgage, except for those relating to the appraisal/survey.

The Bank of Spain agrees that the new law should reduce the number of litigation cases but voiced concerns that it will also make new loans more expensive.

Original story: Expansión

Translation/Summary: Carmel Drake

Metrovacesa Explores Entering the Rental Home Sector

21 February 2019 – El Confidencial

Selling new build homes is still proving to be too much of a challenge for the times that are approaching. As such, another of the listed property developers, Metrovacesa, is evaluating its entry into the rental home sector, an option that its competitor Neinor (advised by Goldman Sachs) also has on the table. According to market sources, it is the first of the large players determined to take that step to fulfil its business plans.

Since the end of last year, the large owners of residential land have acknowledged that they are open to entering the rental market, either as owners or as turnkey suppliers for investors. The challenge, nevertheless, is disembarking in this segment without their margins being affected and therefore being forced to revise their business plans, like Juan Velayos already had to do with Neinor.

For the time being, the real estate company controlled by Santander (49%) and BBVA (21%) has recognised that it is considering rental housing as “a valid strategic option”, although it has not made any firm decisions in this regard, according to public declarations made by the property developer’s Head of Corporate Development. In its case, it will always be as a business to sell to a specialist third party operating in the residential property business.

This strategic reflection affects everyone, although the speeds of adoption will vary. In the case of Aedas, it has been working for some time on different scenarios that may open the door following the end of the current cycle, in which property developers with large land portfolios have been constituted, boosted by investment funds, because its not all about land in the main markets, nor are there infinite buyers for flats costing more than €400,000.

In the case of Metrovacesa, its numbers are the most chunky, since it has the largest liquid land portfolio in Spain, worth almost €2.7 billion, on which it estimates that around 38,000 homes could be built, according to official data. In its case, like with the rest of the listed firms, the largest volume of homes will be handed over in 2020, a short-term horizon, for which conservative estimates are beginning to be made.

The lower economic growth in Spain (2.8% in 2018 and 2.2% in 2019, according to the Bank of Spain) is another indicator of the macro-economic environment that is looming. In this situation, the potential impact that it may have on sales forecasts means that “many value alternative (rental) products as options for offsetting a likely slowdown in sales”, say sources at one of the large real estate consultancy firms.

Original story: El Confidencial (by C. H.)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Sareb’s Board Suspends the Sale of its Socimi Témpore to Launch a ‘Transparent Process’

19 December 2018 – El Independiente

The sale of Tempore Properties, the Socimi owned by the Company for the Management of Assets proceeding from the Restructuring of the Banking System (Sareb), was almost a done deal, but the plug has been pulled at the final hurdle. Sareb and the investment fund TPG were in the midst of closing the final details of the operation when the Board of the so-called “bad bank” decided to reject the offer. To the bewilderment of the US group, the directors of Sareb have demanded the launch of an ordered and transparent sale process, according to sources familiar with the events speaking to El Independiente.

Tempore, which has just carried out a non-monetary capital increase for €150 million and which will soon manage 3,300 real estate assets worth €325 million, received several offers at the end of November. The bid from TPG was successful over the others, but the process did not have all of the guarantees, and so the members of Sareb’s Board of Directors took the decision to block the transaction.

“It makes sense, especially taking into account the legal problems that could be generated if a government agency participates in exclusive processes”, indicated sources in the sector. “The directors have to be increasingly careful with the operations that they approve or they may incur serious faults”, added another.

In this way, the entity that it seemed was going to become the new owner of the Socimi, TPG, is the shareholder of companies such as Spotify, Airbnb, Burger King, Lenovo, Ducati and Grohe, amongst others.

Sareb, in which the State owns a 45% stake, wanted to close the operation before the end of the year and improve the appearance of its accounts, which are set to report losses, for another year. Now, however, that operation will have to wait until 2019.

The Tempore portfolio being sold by Sareb is concentrated (80%) in the metropolitan areas of Spain’s major capitals, with the remaining assets located in geographical areas with significant demand in the rental market, such as Valencia, Sevilla, Zaragoza, Málaga and Almería.

Azora is responsible for the management of the portfolio, specifically for the administration and sale of the assets. The Socimi is led by the Director of Rentals at Sareb, Nicolás Díaz Saldaña. Before joining the bad bank, Saldaña led the international team at Metrovacesa during the toughest period of the real estate crisis (…).

Several sources in the financial sector have indicated that Sareb must maximise the cleanliness of the operations that it participates in, especially after some institutions have been called out for irregular sales.

The Bank of Spain took Sareb to task over some suspicious activity following an inspection, according to a report to which El Independiente has had access.

Original story: El Independiente (by Ana Antón)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Sareb Sells its Socimi & its 3,300-Asset Portfolio to TPG

4 December 2018 – El Independiente

Sareb, the Company for the Management of Assets proceeding from the Restructuring of the Banking System, is closing the final details of the sale of its Socimi Tempore Properties to the private equity fund TPG.

The company, which is in the middle of a non-monetary capital increase amounting to €150 million and which will soon manage 3,300 real estate assets worth €325 million, received several offers at the end of November, including from the fund Apollo. In the end, the proposal from TPG has proved victorious, according to sources speaking to El Independiente.

The US group TPG, which has USD 94 billion in assets under management, is the shareholder of companies such as Spotify, Airbnb, Burger King, Lenovo, Ducati, Saxo Bank and Grohe, amongst others.

The so-called bad bank, in which the State holds a 45% stake, hopes to close this operation before the end of the year, in order to improve the appearance of its accounts, which will again feature losses.

The Tempore portfolio sold by Sareb is concentrated (80%) in the metropolitan areas of the major capitals, with the remainder located in regions with significant demand in the rental market, such as Valencia, Sevilla, Zaragoza, Málaga and Almería.

Azora is responsible for the management of the portfolio – it performs the administration and marketing activities for the assets directly. The company is led by the Director of Rentals at Sareb, Nicolás Díaz Saldaña. Before his arrival at Sareb, Saldaña was at the helm of the international department at Metrovacesa during the most complicated period of the real estate crisis.

Sareb is selling its Socimi at a time when these types of companies are in the Government’s spotlight, in light of the insistence of Podemos to toughen up the beneficial tax regime that has facilitated the expansion of the vehicles in recent years.

The Bank of Spain has also started to monitor the Socimis as a potential focus of instability for the financial sector and links the rise of these vehicles to the sharp increases in the prices of offices and commercial premises.

Original story: El Independiente (by Ana Antón)

Translation: Carmel Drake

The Bank of Spain Detects Anomalies in Sale of Sareb’s Assets in 2015

24 August 2018

A report from the Bank of Spain criticised Sareb regarding its conduct in the 2015 asset sales. The banking supervisor questioned the processes behind the purchases, approvals, executions, donations and sales of real estate assets. One report highlighted that the semi-public entity failed to analyse the operations adequately, nor did it undertake any serious assessment of the negotiation and the results.

According to El Independiente, the Bank of Spain’s report criticised Sareb’s conduct at a number of levels:

Expenses: the supervisor criticised the mechanisms Sareb had in place to approve expenses. For example, the regulator stated that when there were contract extensions, if they were to occur in the next tax year and were not budgeted in advance, they did not consider the initial expense, so the approval was determined regardless of any previous expenditures.

Write-offs: the agency shows that Sareb had no control over the approval of debt write-offs benefitting buyers (Sareb received less money when disposing of assets).

Questions about internal organisation: the BdE criticised Sareb’s organisational structure and highlighted failures in communications between departments, diminishing efficacy.

Unreliable solvency analysis: Sareb’s valuations of risk positions were unreliable. The BdE also noted that the entity did not periodically review the assets it allocated to its direct management department.

Original Story: Idealista

Translation: Richard Turner