Spain’s Banks Set to Sell €120bn+ in Problem Assets This Year

4 July 2018 – Cinco Días

Spain’s banks are stepping down on the accelerator to put an end to the property hangover, although it will still take another two or three years for them to get rid of all of the excesses left over from the financial crisis. And that is not so much due to the leftover real estate portfolios but more because of the portfolios of non-performing loans, a caption that is continuing to augment the balance sheets of financial institutions.

In this way, the experts hope that this year will see a new record in terms of the sale of portfolios, for an approximate total of €120 billion, including the macro-operations from Santander and BBVA, announced last year but completed this year. Without them, the figure could amount to more than €51 billion, slightly higher than in 2017, which would increase to €80 billion if Sareb manages to sell a €30 billion portfolio.

Pressure from the European Central Bank (ECB) and the Bank of Spain, as well as that exerted by the market itself, is causing financial institutions to opt to sell their portfolios of problem assets in single operations wherever possible, rather than selling them off in a piecemeal fashion, in light of the prospects of rising prices.

Interest from opportunistic funds to invest in Spain and, also forecasts for even greater price rises for real estate assets in the future, are leading the banks to take advantage of the opportunity to clean-up their balance sheets between this year and next, just 10 years after the start of the crisis, explain several experts.

“The funds have large amounts of liquidity. Moreover, interest rates are still at historical minimums (still negative) and so financing can be obtained at very low prices, hence their interest in buying large portfolios of assets linked to property. They want to take advantage of the current climate”, explains Íñigo Laspiur, Director of Corporate Finance CBRE España.

All of the experts agree that the sale by Santander of Popular’s property to Blackstone, an operation announced last year, but ratified at the beginning of this year, for a gross amount of around €30 billion, was the trigger that caused the banks to decide to divest their portfolios on a mass scale.

Since that operation was ratified at the beginning of this year, to date, the banks have divested more than €62 billion in problem assets. That amount includes BBVA’s operation with Cerberus, the fund to which it sold €13 billion. Nevertheless, that operation is still pending approval from the Deposit Guarantee Fund (FGD) since some of it forms part of the Asset Protection Scheme (EPA), having proceeded from the former savings bank Unnim.

Financial sources maintain that there are currently operations underway amounting to another €21 billion, plus an addition €8 billion that may be closed over the coming months. The largest include the sale of around €11 billion in assets from Sabadell (of which €900 million has already been sold to Axactor), whose sale is scheduled for this month.

To these figures another €30 billion gross may be added from the sale of a Sareb portfolio this year if Pedro Sánchez’s Government approves that potential operation in the end. Santander has also put up for sale another €6 billion.

Original story: Cinco Días (by Ángeles Gonzalo Alconada)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Flagship Stores Become The Bastion Of Large Retailers

19 October 2017 – Expansión

The unstoppable rise of e-commerce, the tsunami of digitalisation and the new buying habits of consumers have revolutionised the retail sector forcing operators to adapt to the new times to stay competitive.

The e-commerce sector is now turning over €24,000 million per annum in Spain, with a growth rate of 20% p.a. In this context, consumers are increasingly using the internet to manage their purchases, resolve queries and optimise their visits to stores. As such, they are visiting stores less frequently but they are spending more time there when they do go, according to a report from CBRE about the retail sector.

In this context, large international brands are backing the flagship store model as a gateway into Spain; and operators that have traditionally based themselves on the outskirts of cities are now moving into flagship stores in the centre. By way of example, the French firm Kiabi opened a store on Paseo de Gràcia a few months ago. In the same way, operators who have traditionally had stores in retail parks are now making space for themselves in the city centre, such as Media Markt, which opened two stores in the centre of Barcelona in 2016. Before the summer, the electronics firm also opened its new its flagship store in Plaza del Carmen, Madrid, just a stone’s throw from Gran Vía.

Ikea is joining this trend too, with a store on Calle Serrano; as is Leroy Merlin, which is planning to open a shop on Calle Fontanella, next to Plaza de Catalunya in Barcelona

Interest in Spain

“Physical stores are still the favourite channel for consumers, but it is harder to get people out of the house. To attract them, retailers are opening large flagship stores focused on the shopping experience and expanding the range of services, supported by new technologies that allow marketing strategies to be customised”, explains Gonzalo Senra, National Director of Retail at CBRE España (…).

Given the interest from large brands in Spain and encouraged by the upwards cycle of the economy and the improvement in consumption, many overseas institutional investors have decided to back the Spanish market. For example, the US investor Hines has purchased four important prime premises in Madrid and Barcelona in the last year.

These types of investors are the main buyers of flagship stores in well-located premises, involving investment volumes of more than €20 million. Moreover, sources at the consultancy firm have noted a change in the trend in this market with the entry of several insurance companies bidding for large prime assets.

By contrast, the market for smaller acquisitions is dominated by Spanish private investors and family offices – they tend to be particularly interested in assets worth less than €10 million.

Overall, investment in high street premises amounted to €800 million in 2016. The rate of investment continued during the first half of this year, with an investment volume of €515 million, according to data from the consultancy firm (…).

The high level of demand has accentuated the typical shortage of well-positioned products and resulted in a reduction in returns. According to the report, the downward trend in yields continued in 2017 to reach 3.25% in some cases for the most prime products in Madrid and Barcelona (…).

Original story: Expansión (by Rebeca Arroyo)

Translation: Carmel Drake

GreenOak Recruits Zarrabeitia From CBRE

16 July 2015 – Expansión

International funds still regard Spain as one of their favourite destinations for investment. As such, one of the most active firms, the US fund GreenOak, has just strengthened its team in Spain to boost its commitment to the market.

The fund, which specialises in the real estate sector, has recruited Javier Zarrabeitia, former director of CBRE España. Zarrabeitia, the son of the CEO of Testa Inmuebles, is a specialist in capital markets. Before joining CBRE, he advised large real estate transactions, such as the sale of BBVA’s building on Castellana, 77 to GMP for €90 million. In fact, GreenOak was one of the finalists in that auction.

In addition to Zarrabeitia, GreenOak is planning to hire three or four other people over the coming months at its offices in Madrid. The firm currently has a team of ten professionals dedicated to the Spanish market, although most of them are based in London.

Francesco Ostuni leads the Spanish team – he is the European Director of Acquisitions at GreenOak, and was formerly a director at Morgan Stanley and before that at the Qatar sovereign fund. In turn, Ostuni reports into the founding director of the fund, John Carrafiell, who led Morgan Stanley’s real estate strategy for several years, and closed operations such as the purchase of Canary Wharf. (…)

GreenOak, which has assets under management amounting to $5,000 million (€4,533 million) around the world, has already made several real estate investments in Spain during the last year.

Background

The US fund took its first big step in Spain last year, when it purchased seven shopping centres from the Dutch group Vastned Retail for €160 million. Subsequently, it tried to enter the office market – it participated in the process to purchase not only Castellana 77, but also Castellana, 89 – Ahorro Corporación’s headquarters – which was ultimately purchased by Corporación Financiera Alba, owned by the March family.

In recent months, GreenOak has been adding to its portfolio of Spanish investments, with the purchase of five logistics assets in the Community of Madrid, encompassing 200,000 m2. The US fund paid between €60 million and €75 million to close that acquisition.

The firm plans to close new operations in the short term, mainly in the logistics segment – where it has agreed to buy three more assets – , as well as the market for shopping centres and offices, after its two previous failed attempts.

Original story: Expansión (by J. Zuloaga)

Translation: Carmel Drake