Azca: Madrid’s Financial District Gets A Makeover

26 August 2016 – Expansión

Three buildings in the area are currently being completely renovated, along with all of the public spaces in the financial district. Zara will move in soon and the neighbouring Bernabéu stadium will be renovated in 2018.

The refurbishment of some of its classic office buildings, the complete renovation of the public squares, the arrival of a fashion giant and some changes in the faces of some of the most illustrious neighbours. That is the urban landscape facing Azca at the moment and it means that the financial district will have a completely new image in a matter of months.

In the schedule of programmed works, we have the complete refurbishment of Torre Europa, one of the flagship buildings in the area, which has not had any space available for three decades. Following the departure of its veteran tenant – KPMG -, Grupo Infinorsa has decided to invest €20 million in the complete modernisation of the 32-storey skyscraper, including the renewal of the façade, which will be completed at the beginning of 2017. (…).

JLL has been commissioned to market the empty office space, equivalent to 70% of its 42,000 sqm surface area, and has already signed its first contract with the US multinational AOL.

Also for the first time since it opened in 1981, almost all of the Torre Negra is available for rent; until last year, it housed the corporate headquarters of BBVA, which continues to occupy the upper floors of the 28-storey skyscraper. A construction canvas currently covers the façade of the building, renamed Castellana 81, where GMP is undertaking work to improve the 38,000 sqm space.

The triangle of planned renovation work is completed by the former headquarters of the Saint Gobain group in Madrid, which is currently unoccupied. With a leasable surface area of more than 16,000 sqm, spread over 18 floors, the building’s façade is going to change with the inclusion of some unique wavy slats on the outside, although the internal refurbishment will be carried out from the ground floor to the roof terrace.

Whilst three of its most spacious office buildings are being updated, Azca is also participating in the renewal of its public spaces. (…).

For the time being, the first phase of the rehabilitation of Plaza Pablo Ruiz Picasso has been completed and the second, and final, phase is scheduled to begin before the end of the year. (…).

But the most high profile issue in Azca over the next few months will be the arrival of Zara to the financial centre of Nuevos Ministerios. The company owned by Amancio Ortega plans to open its largest store in Spain in the 5,000 sqm building currently occupied by FNAC, next door to El Corte Inglés.

The renovation of the area could be completed in the medium term with urban projects in the vicinity. One project that is already in an advanced phase is the renovation of the Bernabéu stadium, which will not involve the extension of the constructed surface area, but will allow the construction of a roof, which is what the club wants. Most of this construction work will be carried out in 2018.

Another project, which is in an embryonic phase, will be the transformation of the Palacio de Congresos on La Castellana into a 23-storey property, which will include, amongst other facilities, a five-star hotel. (…).

Original story: Expansión (by Marta Belver)

Translation: Carmel Drake

What Does The Future Hold For Azca?

16 March 2015 – El Confidencial

In Madrid, the ‘City’ is called Azca. It is the capital’s financial centre par excellence and, yet, a third of the office space in the area is empty. (According to sector experts), the time for change in upon us.

In Madrid, the ‘City’ is called Azca. It is the capital’s financial centre par excellence, home to iconic buildings such as Torre Picasso and many of the world’s leading companies own the properties, including Pontegadea (the real estate company owned by Amancio Ortega), GMP, Mutua Madrileña, El Corte Inglés, Metrovacesa, Testa and Infinorsa. The prime location, in the heart of the Paseo de la Castellana and next to one of the capital’s major transport hubs, Nuevos Ministerios, meant that until a few years ago, this area accounted for the majority of the capital’s prime office space. However, the opening of the Cuatro Torres, the arrival of the economic crisis, the departure of large companies to peripheral areas (of the city) and the lack of investment, both in the properties themselves as well as in the surrounding area, have dampened Azca’s appeal.

The combination of these elements has also had a significant affect on prices. Between 2008 and 2014, prime rents in the capital fell from €39/m2 to €25/m2 (per month), whilst in Barcelona, rents decreased from €22/m2 to almost €14/m2 (per month), according to a report called “Understanding the Office Market in 2014”, prepared by Deloitte Real Estate. The final nail in the coffin in terms of the pressure on the area came with the departure of KPMG, which (last month) decided to leave its headquarters in Torre Europa to move to the Torre de Cristal, at Real Madrid’s former Sports City (Ciudad Deportiva).

Furthermore, BBVA is set to leave its traditional black skyscraper to relocate to the suburb of Las Tablas, and the tenants of the Torre Saint Gobain and Torre Titania are planning to fully vacate; the latter was built by El Corte Inglés on the foundations of the former Windsor. In total, around 67,000 square metres of the 272,000 square metres of above-ground office space in the area is (currently) available to let, which gives rise to the question: is Azca doomed to reduce its prices further?

The answer is no, according to all of the experts, although they admit that the area is at a turning point. In their view, Azca is living through its own catharsis, which may be summarised by the classic phrase – adapt or die. And the widespread belief is that the former will happen. “Right now, Azca has an opportunity to reinvent itself as the ‘City’ of Madrid once more, but it must know how to seize it. In terms of its location, it has the right ingredients and moreover, the higher the vacancy rate, the easier it will be”, say the experts at Deloitte.

In Madrid, barely 2% of the office space in the high quality buildings inside the M-30 is vacant.

In this sense, a public-private initiative, known as the Azca Master Plan (Plan Director de Azca), is underway, which seeks to open up the area and facilitate access from El Coste Inglés in Nuevos Ministerios to the Bernabeu, through three targeted efforts: construction work to improve (the area in general), environmental initiatives and planning. This would mean, amongst other aspects, modifying some of the uses (of the area); the main challenge is to convert the area that is the capital’s business district during the week, into an area for families, shopping and leisure on the weekends, rather than leaving it half empty when the office lights are turned off (on Friday night), which is what happens at the moment.

“Azca must become a digital icon that adapts to incorporate technological developments, that uses the facades of the buildings (creatively), that puts up digital screens to attract young people (to the area) at the weekend, that organises initiatives for the neighbours (of the area) and the wider city, that becomes an icon of ‘digital Madrid’, in the style of New York’s Times Square”, says Ángel Serrano, Business Director at Aguirre Newman.

His company is managing the last major transaction in the area, the sale of Castellana, 89, in which a great deal of interest is being shown; the price may reach €140 million. The same interest was seen recently in the bid to acquire the Torre Saint Gobain, which GMP ended up purchasing for €90 million (with plans to spend a further €14 million on its refurbishment) and the land that El Corte Inglés purchased from Adif for €136 million, when the starting price was €40 million.

These transactions confirm the conviction that the major landlords in Madrid have that Azca is going to emerge stronger from the current situation, which means it will be able to increase its prices again in the medium term. Nevertheless, for the time being, it will have to endure a couple of years “crossing the desert”, during which time GMP, Infinorsa and whoever ends up winning the bid to acquire Castellana 89 will refurbish their buildings as well as the Torre BBVA (where the bank will continue to occupy the top five floors and display its logo on the outside), Torre Saint Gobain and, most likely, the Torre Europa.

It is expected that all of these construction works will be carried out in parallel to the aforementioned Master Plan to relaunch the area, which means that now is the perfect time (for tenants) to move to Azca before all of these improvements have been completed and prices increase. “We are currently experiencing a historic moment in terms of low prices, which provides the perfect opportunity for many of the companies that moved out of the centre and now want to move back. Moreover, this is supported by the gradual recovery of the economy and the privileged location of Azca, which I think will play an important role in its favour (in the future)”, says José Luis Guillermo, managing partner of Inmospace. Nevertheless, in his opinion, this metamorphism of the area will require support from the Public Administrations, not only in terms of the necessary changes to certain uses (of the area), but also in terms of the adoption of measures to promote the entry of multi-national companies into the capital’s ‘City’.

Experts consider that now is the time to move to Azca, before prices rise.

Madrid has some of the highest forecasts for (rental) income growth over the next five years of any city in Europe. Currently, according to data from Knight Frank, its vacancy rate amounts to 11.9%, although in the central business district, known as in the jargon of the trade as CBD, the figure decreases to 7.3%, and for Grade A buildings (highest quality) within the M-30, the vacancy rate is a low as 2%. This means that there are very few good buildings (available) in prime areas in Madrid.

In this context, a third of the leaseable office area in Azca is currently vacant and, despite that, both the experts and the large investors that are bidding to purchase buildings expect average rental income in the area to return to €30/m2 (per month), i.e. 20% more than now, over the next five to seven years. How come?

Patricio Palomar, Director of Alternative Investments at CBRE provides a good summary of where Azca is going and the price of its rentals: “To analyse the evolution, three points should be taken into account: the Master Plan for the area, which will favour (higher) prices; how Azca is going to change in terms of immediate availability, since various buildings are currently being refurbished, which will work in the area’s favour, but that will also mean there is more supply and therefore, tenants will have greater bargaining power, which may contain the increase to some extent. The third element is that there are few square metres concentrated in one area in Madrid and there are few high quality buildings for tenants looking to rent more than 10,000 m2 of space inside the M-30; a supply that Azca will indeed have (in the not too distant future). Add to that the fact that many tenants of this type, which moved to peripheral areas in the past, now want to return to locations such as this one, make me think that we will see price increases”.

Original story: El Confidencial (by Ruth Ugalde)

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

Madrid To Build A Conference Centre & Luxury Hotel Opposite The Bernabeu

19 February 2015 – Expansión

The Town Hall will approve the operation of a conference centre and the construction of a five star hotel in exchange from the renovation of the complex, which will also include a retail area.

It is one of the most iconic buildings in Madrid’s financial district, in particular due to the mural on its facade, designed by the artist Joan Miró.

Built in the 1960s and located on the Paseo de la Castellana, opposite the Santiago Bernabéu stadium, Madrid’s Conference Centre (Palacio de Congresos) has been closed for two years due to the poor state of its facilities, which violate basic safety standards.

But today, the Town Hall expects to approve a plan for the comprehensive remodelling of the site and in addition, to construct a luxury hotel that could have up to 23 floors.

According to sources close to the transaction, the Town Hall will invite tenders for the renovation of the Palacio and the construction of a hotel that do not result in any cost to the taxpayer: the successful bidder will complete the building work, estimated to amount to €86 million, in exchange for a licence to operate the entire complex.

In other words, the management of the Palacio and hotel will be in private hands, but ownership of the space will continue to remain with the public. “The role of the State should be to promote different types of tourism, but given the quantity of highly prestigious tour operators in our country, the best option is for them to take care of the management to ensure we provide state-of-the-art facilities”, explained an internal document about the operation.

Both the Town Hall and the Ministry of Industry, Energy and Tourism, have been very involved in the process. They want the new Palacio to be an engine for attracting “sophisticated, profitable” tourists with “higher added value and greater spending power”, which is why one of the requirements of the tender is that the hotel be a five star facility, “capable of meeting the highly specialised demand for conferences and meetings”, said the document.

In theory, the Government will oversee the aesthetics and architectural modelling of the project, which will not affect the Miró mural under any circumstances. The halls in the new building, designed especially to host professional conferences and large events, must have the latest technology and the best audiovisual facilities and scenography. Similarly, the new complex will have to provide a catering service for at least 1,800 diners.

The current surface area of the Palacio is 40,000 square metres, although since the partial remodelling plan approved in 2001, it has been allowed to increase that to 47,000 sqm; additional space that could be used to build the hotel. Moreover, the space available to construct “compatible” businesses (shops, high-end boutiques, travel agencies, etc.) will increase from 25% of the current total surface area up to 35%. The only business that the tender excludes from being housed in this space are large superstores, reflecting its goal of ensuring that the Palacio does not become a kind of shopping centre. “Other compatible uses will be permitted, but the main use will continue to be as a conference centre”, says the report.

Original story: Expansión (by Yago González)

Translation: Carmel Drake