Santander May ‘Free Up’ 560 Popular Branches For The Retail Market

4 October 2017 – Eje Prime

Santander is starting to decide how to reduce Popular’s stock of bank branches. The investment bank RBC Capital estimates that Santander should close around 560 branches to avoid duplication in the network, which would mean decreasing the total number of branches that the two entities own by 12%. If that is what ends up being carried out, Santander would free up 560 branches in prime and secondary locations for the retail sector.

In a report sent to its clients a few days ago, RBC’s analysts outline the reduction plan for Santander after meeting with directors of the entity during the second week of September, according to Expansión.

The company has set itself the objective of decreasing its branch network, which will generate a reduction in expenses of €500 million. But the cost of closing 12% of the branches would amount to €190 million, according to estimates from RBC.

Original story: Eje Prime

Translation: Carmel Drake

Estate Agents’ Branch Networks Grew By 16.6% In 2016

26 July 2017 – Eje Prime

Estate agents continued to increase their network of branches in the Spanish market last year. The number of new operating establishments opened amounted to 1,287, up by 184 compared to 2015, when 1,103 new premises were opened, according to The Franchise in Spain 2017 report, prepared by the Spanish Association of Franchisers (AEF).

According to the report, there are currently 34 networks operating in the estate agent sector, of which 31 were operational at the end of 2015, which means 3 new chains entered the market in 2016.

In terms of billing data, the sector recorded revenues of €287.7 million in 2016, compared with €231.8 million in 2015, which represents an increase of €55.9 million.

Regarding the jobs that the real estate agency sector has generated, at the end of 2016, it employed 3,499 people, compared with 2,748 in 2015; in other words, it now employs 751 more workers.

“The real estate sector was one of the hardest hit by the crisis, however, it has managed to recover and, after a process of natural selection in the market, only those chains that bring seriousness and professionalism to the sector remain. This has opened up a new, solid and promising panorama”, explains Xavier Vallhonrat, President of the AEF.

Original story: Eje Prime

Translation: Carmel Drake

Solvia Doubles Its Profits & Builds 2,800 Homes

7 April 2017 – Expansión 

Solvia is establishing a name for itself as a profitable division for Banco Sabadell. The real estate arm is no longer just an instrument for evacuating assets awarded to the entity during the crisis, but rather it has become a profit-generating subsidiary and one that generates additional business for the bank’s branch network.

Moreover, the group is establishing itself as one of the main real estate companies in Spain covering the full cycle, given that it not only brokers the sale and purchase of properties, it also operates as one of the largest developers of new build properties, with a current stock under construction of 2,800 homes.

According to company sources, Solvia closed 2016 with a profit before tax (PBT) of €57.8 million, which represents a 2.4-fold increase on its earnings the previous year (€24 million).

The turnover of the company led by Javier García del Río for services rendered in 2016 grew by 31% to €157.5 million. This increase was even higher than the growth in the volume of brokered sales, which amounted to €1,995 million, up by 20.4%.

This rise was driven by an increase in marketing activities and the fact that 2016 was the first year in which the portfolios managed on behalf of Sareb were reflected in Solvia’s results their entirety. The bad bank is Solvia’s main client, alongside Banco Sabadell, although the company also works with several funds and family offices.

Moreover, last year, it diversified its activity by starting to sell homes to individuals through the launch of a chain of real estate offices on the high street. Solvia already has fifteen agencies – four of which are franchised – in Alicante, Sevilla, Torrevieja, Marbella, Murcia, San Pedro de Pinatar, El Campello, Fuengirola, Valencia, L’Hospitalet, Badalona, Oviedo, Getafe, Leganés and Castellón. Its objective is to extend the network right across Spain over the next few years.

Property developments

In total – excluding rental homes – Solvia sold 20,321 properties in 2016, up by 25.8%. It is worth noting that 29% of the sales corresponded to assets other than finished homes, compared to 9% in 2015. Since 2011, Solvia has brokered the sale of 91,000 properties in Spain.

The company now manages 148,000 units, with a value of more than €31,000 million. Of that figure, €4,300 million relates to financial assets under management and €1,200 million relates to land under development. The assets it manages on behalf of Sareb came from Banco Ceiss and Bankia.

The 2,800 new build homes that Solvia is now constructing on land owned by Banco Sabadell and Sareb are located in 79 developments across Spain – in Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Córdoba, Sevilla, Gijón and Pamplona.

Original story: Expansión (by Sergi Saborit)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Citi Seeks New Shareholders For Uro Property

20 May 2016 – Expansión

Uro Property, the Socimi that owns a quarter of Santander’s branch network in Spain, may see a change in its shareholders in the coming months. The company that holds 84% of its share capital, Ziloti Holdings, has given Citi a mandate to study possible shareholder changes.

This mandate comes in the face of interest from some of the current shareholders to exit the company, given that they were forced to acquire shares in the first place when their debt was converted into capital in 2014.

The main shareholders of Uro Property – both through Ziloti and otherwise – are Santander, with 22.7%; Atisha Holding, the former Sun Group, with 18.9%; Phoenix Life Assurance, with 14.6%; CaixaBank, with 14.5%; BNP Paribas, with 9.2%; and other private investors and international entities.

Citi will mainly look for investors amongst the large pension funds, insurance companies and investment funds.

The departure of the shareholders was vetoed until March under an institutional agreement reached following the recapitalisation of Uro.

The renewal of the shareholder base is one of the outstanding milestones for the company, which owns 755 Santander branches in Spain. It refinanced its debt last year and cancelled a swap, whereby reducing the financing costs of its €1,300 million debt from 6% to 3.35%. Last year, the Socimi sold 381 branches to Axa for €308 million, recording a capital gain of €27 million.

Original story: Expansión (by J. Zuloaga)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Uro Property’s Profits Amounted To €67M In 2015

19 April 2016 – Expansión

Uro Property, the Socimi that owns a quarter of Santander’s branch network on Spain, recorded profits of €67 million in 2015, down by 82% compared with 2014, after it sold some of the branches to Axa.

This operation, which saw Uro go from owning 1,136 branches of the bank chaired by Ana Botín, to 755 branches, generated net profits of €27 million for the Socimi. The transfer price for the 381 branches was €308 million. In addition, the company has another 40 branches up for sale after they were returned by Santander; BNP Real Estate has been appointed to coordinate the sale.

The second major milestone for Uro Property in 2015 was the refinancing of its debt and the cancelation of a swap (insurance against interest rates), which generated losses of €65 million in 2014. As a result, the Socimi reduced the financing costs on its €1,300 million debt balance from 6% to 3.35%.

Despite these achievements, Uro Property’s profit in 2015 was 82% lower than in 2014 as it incurred higher extraordinary revenues in the prior year. In this way, the valuation of its property portfolio generated profits of €183 million two years ago. In addition, the Socimi also recorded extraordinary revenues of €198 million due to the conversion of a mezzanine tranche (young or high risk debt) with a discount on its original value.

Uro Property saw an improvement in the valuation of its properties in 2015, up by 5%, from €1,804 million to €1,916 million, excluding the impact of the branches sold to Axa.

The Socimi will distribute €54 million of the €65 million profit as a dividend, equivalent to 80% of its profits, as required by the legislation that governs these companies. Of this amount, €18 million was already paid to shareholders in December and another €36 million will be distributed in July.


Meanwhile, Uro Property is being investigated by the Tax Authorities, which have started disciplinary proceedings. According to the company’s accounts, this investigation is due to “a transcription error”, for which the Treasury has proposed a fine of €7.29 million. Uro has appealed that decision and has not recognised any provisions in its accounts for the time being.

Uro is the company that used to be Samos, which acquired 1,152 Santander branches in 2007 under a sale & lease back arrangement. Its high level of debt meant that the creditor bank acquired some of its share capital in 2014.

Original story: Expansión (by J. Zuloaga)

Translation: Carmel Drake