Merlin Enters the Top 10 Ranking of the Largest Logistics Owners in Europe

19 June 2019 – Cinco Días

Merlin Properties has been a major player in the European office and shopping centre markets for several years. But now, the Socimi led by Ismael Clemente has entered the Top 10 ranking of the largest logistics owners on the Continent, with its portfolio of 1.6 million m2 under management, according to a report about the logistics market compiled by Deloitte.

The Top 10 ranking is led by the listed US firm Prologis (17 million m2); Logicor, the firm controlled by China Investment Corporation and Blackstone, (13.5 million m2); and the fund manager CBRE GI (7.7 million m2). They are followed by the logistics specialists Segro, P3 Logistics Parks and Goodman.

Merlin owns 1.1 million m2 of logistics space outright and holds a 48% stake in a company that owns another 469,000 m2 of logistics space in the port of Barcelona. It also has 1.254 million m2 of surface area under development.

Investment in logistics assets is currently breaking records across Europe and in Spain, in particular, boosted by attractive returns and the boom in e-commerce. With the rising demand, the availability of high-quality warehouses is decreasing, hence the need to build more. According to Deloitte, investment in warehouse purchases amounted to €1.5 billion last year, the second best year ever after 2017, when the figure reached €1.6 billion.

Merlin is planning to invest €484 million in its Best II and Best III logistics funds between now and 2022. Most will be targeted in Madrid and its surrounding areas (Guadalajara and Toledo) and Cataluña, but investment will also be made in Lisbon, Zaragoza, Sevilla and Vitoria.

Original story: Cinco Días (by Alfonso Simón Ruiz)

Translation/Summary: Carmel Drake

JLL: 47 Halls of Residence for Students are Under Construction in Spain

24 April 2019 – El Confidencial

The student hall sector is on a roll. With almost fifty projects underway (47) and 17,500 new beds to be added to the existing portfolio by 2022, experts forecast total investment of €1 billion in the sector over the next 4 years.

In 2017, investment in the sector amounted to €560 million, ten times higher than the figure recorded in 2016 (€50 million). Last year, the number dropped to €141 million, but according to Nick Wride, Director of Living and Alternatives at JLL Spain, that was “due to a lack of residences in operation available for sale”. Moreover, it was still the highest figure ever recorded excluding corporate transactions – the data in 2017 was impacted by the completion of 2 large corporate deals.

Last year, 18 operations were closed involving the purchase of land or buildings for conversion. 55% of the investment was undertaken in Madrid and Barcelona, with the remaining 45% made in the main regional cities, such as Málaga, Sevilla and Granada. The operators behind the new beds under construction include Nexo, Resa, WPCarey, Invesco, CBRE GI, Axa and GSA, amongst others.

Student halls offer some of the highest yields in the sector: 5.5% in the secondary cities and 5% in Madrid and Barcelona, in line with those generated by nursing homes (5.5%) and logistics assets (5%), but well above those seen in other segments such as retail premises (3.15%), offices (3.50%), residential (3.50%) and hotels (4%).

The reason is the enormous demand that exists for these types of assets. In Spain, almost half a million students need accommodation, but there are currently just 91,000 student beds. The gap is clear, and growing, boosted by an increase in the number of domestic and international students travelling away from home to study. Those not finding student accommodation have to rent in the private market – an informal, heterogeneous, inflexible and potentially expensive option (particularly in Madrid and Barcelona where prices are soaring).

All this makes the market for student accommodation extremely attractive.

Original story: El Confidencial (by E. Sanz)

Translation/Summary: Carmel Drake

Funds, Socimis, El Corte Inglés & Seur Compete in the Urban Logistics Segment

9 March 2019 – Expansión

Investors and logistics operators alike are setting their sights on urban hubs to benefit from the boom in e-commerce. According to data from CBRE, investment in the logistics sector is thriving – it amounted to €2 billion in 2017, €1.5 billion in 2018 and is forecast to reach €1.2 billion in 2019. Active players in the sector include the Singapore sovereign fund through its Socimi P3, Blackstone, Prologis, Logicor, CBRE GI and Montepino, and Merlin, amongst others.

Urban hubs are gaining significant weight in the sector thanks to their ability to reduce transport costs, avoid the new traffic restrictions and resolve the problem of product returns.

According to the CNMC, Correos and Correos Express currently deliver 44% of all packages in Spain, followed by MRW and Seur (14% each) and DHL (4.5%).

In terms of retailers operating in this space, Amazon set the ball rolling by opening a logistics centre in the heart of the Eixample district of Barcelona and in the Méndez Álvaro area of Madrid. Other large retailers are following suit by opening distribution centres inside major cities, such as Decathlon, MediaMarkt, Ikea, Aki, Carrefour and Worten.

The investment firm Azora has also announced its intention to invest €250 million in logistics hubs in urban centres, which it will lease to delivery specialists such as Seur, DHL and MRW. Seur already has eleven urban logistics centres and plans to open another nine this year. Meanwhile, DHL already has ten such hubs and plans to open two more this year.

In the same vein, the department store giant El Corte Inglés has also launched an ambitious omnichannel logistics strategy, which will convert its 94 shopping centres into storage points for the management of online purchases.

Original story: Expansión (by I. de las Heras & R. Arroyo)

Translation/Summary: Carmel Drake

Grupo Lar & Centerbridge Join Forces to Build Logistics Assets

10 March 2019 – Expansión

The Spanish real estate firm Grupo Lar has joined forces with the US private equity company Centerbridge to promote a portfolio of latest generation logistics warehouses.

The assets in the portfolio will primarily be located in Madrid and Barcelona, but opportunities will also be sought in Valencia, Málaga, Sevilla and the Pais Vasco.

The joint venture between the two firms will compete with another partnership launched in 2017 to invest in the logistics sector between the fund manager CBRE Global Investors and Montepino.

Original story: Expansión

Translation: Carmel Drake

Knight Frank: High Street Investment Soared by 84% to €1.3bn in 2018

31 January 2019 – Eje Prime

The real estate sector has closed another year with a strong performance in the Spanish market. As we approach the end of the real estate cycle in the country, the tertiary sector is continuing to maintain high levels of investment, with growing rents and sustainable yields.

In the retail sector, the investment volume amounted to around €3.7 billion in 2018, according to data from Knight Frank. The main driver of that investment was the high street, where spending soared by 84% to €1.3 billion.

Despite that, the bulk of retail investment in Spain continued to be directed towards shopping centres, which accounted for 54% of the total last year with major operations such as the sale of the Summit portfolio, owned by Sonae Sierra in conjunction with CBRE GI, and of which 87% is now controlled by JT Real Estate.

Moreover, the consultancy firm highlights that interest has increased from investors in shopping centres and isolated retail warehouses in good locations “which allow them to manage last mile delivery points”, said the consultancy firm.

Returns have remained stable across the three segments with yields of 5.25% for retail parks, 4.25% for shopping centres and 3% for high street assets.

Despite the strong performance of the retail sector in 2018, the jewel in the Spanish real estate crown is still the logistics segment. In 2018, investment in logistics assets amounted to €1.255 billion, close to the record set in 2017 of €1.28 billion.

In the last quarter, several large operations were closed, such as Blackstone’s purchase of a portfolio of 55 assets from Neinver for €300 million.

Interest in the segment continues to generate expectations regarding the compression of yields, and so Knight Frank forecasts returns of around 5% this year.

Finally, the office sector has also maintained a robust rate of activity, after the maximums recorded in 2017 thanks to operations undertaken by the Administration. Specifically, Knight Frank estimates that 2018 closed with a gross absorption of 493,000 m2.

Following the trend set in 2017, 52% of the surface area leased was located outside of the M-30, although during the final quarter, it was the secondary centre that accounted for the bulk of the space rented, around 35%.

Prime office rents remained stable at around €30.5/m2/month, and reached maximums of €38.5/m2/month in the most sought-after areas of the business district.

Original story: Eje Prime

Translation: Carmel Drake

Sonae Sierra & JT Purchase 3 Shopping Centres in Spain for €485M

19 December 2018 – Eje Prime

Sonae Sierra and the Slovak fund JT have closed the purchase of three Spanish shopping centres that had been put on the market by the Portuguese group itself and CBRE GI. The two companies have created a joint venture to acquire Gran Casa (Zaragoza), Max Center (Vizcaya) and Valle Real (Cantabria) for €485 million, as Eje Prime revealed in August.

Boosted by the property developer Peter Korbačka, JT Real Estate is going to control 87% of the joint venture, and Sonae will be the owner of the remaining 12%, as well as the manager of the three centres. To date, the assets had been owned 50/50 by the Portuguese group and CBRE GI.

The three commercial complexes are currently immersed in projects to renovate and improve their commercial mixes “to provide experiences to our visitors and generate value for our stakeholders” explained sources at Sonae Sierra.

The operation that has been signed is in line with the Portuguese group’s current strategy of “reaching agreements with large international investors who are looking for an operating partner with the aim of increasing the value of the assets acquired and generating value for investors”, say sources at the company.

Pedro Caupers, Investment Director at Sonae Sierra, believes that this agreement with JT “will be the start of a long-term relationship that may extend to include new projects, both in Spain and in other European countries”. Meanwhile, Peter Korbačka has said that “Spain is one of the most robust markets within the real estate sector in Europe”.

With its headquarters in Bratislava, JT Real Estate is one of the main real estate groups in Slovakia. The company, which started life in 1996, currently employs around 300 people and operates in various segments. This will be its first transaction in the Spanish market.

Meanwhile, Sonae Sierra administers and controls 46 shopping centres in Europe and Latin America, with a gross leasable area (GLA) of 1.9 million m2 and a market value of €7 billion. The company operates in twelve countries around the world and, in 2017, 438 million people visited its complexes.

Original story: Eje Prime

Translation: Carmel Drake

Deutsche Bank, APG & CBRE GI Enter Spain’s Residential Rental Market

7 December 2018 – Expansión

The large international investors have placed their focus on the residential market and, specifically, on the rental segment. The success of this sector, together with labour mobility, the difficult access to housing and changes in living habits mean that, increasingly, renting is an option over buying in Spain, and that has fuelled interest from capital in the sector.

Blackstone, the largest real estate investor in Spain, was one of the first funds to back the residential rental sector with the purchase of 18 developments comprising 1,860 units from the Municipal Housing and Land Company of Madrid (EMVS) in 2013, but it has not been the only one. The Dutch pension fund APG, in conjunction with Renta Corporación; the German bank Deutsche Bank; and the international fund manager CBRE GI have been some of the most committed investors in this market in recent months.

In this way, APG reached an agreement in the spring of 2017 with the Catalan real estate company Renta Corporación to launch Vivenio, a Socimi specialising in housing, with the aim of acquiring assets worth €1 billion in Madrid, Barcelona and the provincial capitals. The Socimi is going to close a particularly active year for acquisitions, with a total investment of €400 million and is planning to repeat that amount in 2019 to reach a total portfolio of €1 billion in just over two years. One of the largest purchases it has made this year was the batch of 1,100 homes that belonged to the manager Aquila Capital, headquartered in Hamburg, for €240 million.

With the aim of diversifying its portfolio and entering this growing segment, the international fund manager CBRE GI joined forces with Azora, the Spanish manager founded by Concha Osácar and Fernando Gumuzio, with experience in this sector, and the New York investment firm Madison to invest €750 million over the next two or three years. That three-way alliance started with a portfolio of 65 buildings and a total of 6,458 homes and has the aim of reaching, at least, 10,000 units.

Another large investor that is betting heavily on the Spanish residential sector is DWS, the asset management subsidiary of the German bank Deutsche Bank, which has prepared a budget of €500 million to acquire between 1,000 and 2,000 homes in Spain. In that case, it is backing new build developments and it will do so through three formulae: delegated development, the acquisition of construction projects from other property developers and direct development. The objective is to maintain the assets in its portfolio and rent them out. In that case, the vehicle will not be a Socimi because German regulation of the funds from which the capital proceeds do not allow that. 60% of the investment will be made with own funds and the rest, bank financing. The plan is to invest primarily in Madrid and Barcelona, but they will also study plots in cities such as Bilbao and Sevilla, provided the rental market is very liquid.

Meanwhile, Catella Asset Management Iberia (CAMI), the Spanish subsidiary of the Swedish fund manager is intending to reach 2,000 units by 2020. The manager, which will add 1,000 homes to its portfolio at the beginning of 2019, entered the residential rental market two and a half years ago and has invested around €160 million in the business to date. It plans to double that figure to reach 2,000 homes within two years.

Another real estate company that has teamed up with foreign funds to grow in this segment has been Elix. The firm, which is dedicated to the purchase of buildings, their renovation and the sale of homes by unit, has signed an alliance with KKR and Altamar to invest in buildings, renovate them and dedicate them to the rental market. Its aim is to invest €200 million in Madrid and Barcelona through the Socimi Elix Vintage.

Finally, Redevco has created a new fund to invest €500 million in residential projects in several European markets, including Spain (…). Redevco is planning to build a pan-European residential portfolio comprising approximately 2,500 units.

Original story: Expansión (by Rebeca Arroyo & Marisa Anglés)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Montepino Invests €6M+ in a New Logistics Centre in Madrid

10 September 2018 – Eje Prime

Montepino is continuing to invest in the logistics sector in Madrid. The property developer has just finalised the construction of a logistics and innovation centre on the Alcobendas industrial estate, in which it has invested €6 million.

The space measures 6,300 m2, comprising a warehouse spanning 5,000 m2 and an adjoining building for offices. The plot, which will house the distribution operations for CooperVision on the peninsula, has a parking area spanning 16,000 m2, with capacity for 128 vehicles.

Montepino has led the design of the plans and the execution of the construction work, entrusted to the construction company MLN S.A. and completed within a period of six months. The project has been designed so that, in the future, the space may be extended by an additional 2,000 m2.

Several companies from the pharmaceutical and healthcare sector also have operations on the Alcobendas industrial estate, where this new logistics complex is located. The area is considered a strategic location in which many companies centralise their distribution operations for the rest of the peninsula.

Montepino will include this new asset in the portfolio of the recently created joint venture between the property developer and the manager CBRE Global Investors. Montepino’s objective is to expand and double the current value of its partnership through the completion, during the course of 2018 and 2019, of the more than 300,000 m2 of space currently has under construction, as well as the acquisition of new opportunities.

Original story: Eje Prime

Translation: Carmel Drake

Azora, CBRE GIP & Madison Create a Fund with €750M & 6,500 Homes

10 September 2018 – Expansión

The real estate companies Azora, CBRE GIP and Madison have constituted a joint venture for residential rental properties in Spain. They have created it with 6,458 homes and €750 million in own funds in order to expand the portfolio to 10,000 homes over the next two or three years.

In a statement, the three companies have announced the joint venture agreement, with an initial asset value of €870 million. The fund’s 6,458 homes are located in 65 buildings and 70% of them are located in the metropolitan area of Madrid.

Azora’s new subsidiary for residential rental has emerged from the recapitalisation of another previous one, Lazora. The investment and integral management of the new fund will be borne by Azora, which has also acquired a minority stake in the entity.

The Director for Continental Europe at CBRE Global Investment Partners, Alexander van Riel, said that “the residential market in Spain is very fragmented, and so this portfolio and its size are unique in that it acts as an important consolidator in the sector”.

“This investment increases CBRE GIP’s exposure to the residential sector in Europe to more than €2.5 billion and is in line with our key strategy: to follow demographic and real estate development trends in markets with a scarcity of products”, added Van Riel.

Meanwhile, the co-head of the securities portfolio at Madison International Realty, Derek Jacobson, said that the investment “represents a unique opportunity to acquire a large-scale and high-quality residential portfolio located primarily in the Spanish capital”.

The head of the residential area at Azora, Javier Rodríguez-Heredia, said that the intention is to hold onto the 6,458-rental unit portfolio for 15 years.

“Rather than opting for the liquidation and sale of these units, through this strategic association with CBRE GIP and Madison, we have not only found a way of ensuring that these homes remain available for families, we are also going to increase the investment in the rental products to build a new supply over the long term”, added Rodríguez-Heredia.

CBRE GIP and Madison have been advised by Jones Day, Pérez-Llorca, PwC, Howden, CBRE, Arcadis and Knight Frank, whilst Kempen, Freshfields and Deloitte have advised Lazora.

Last May, Azora postponed its planned debut on the stock market and, in August, its management contract with the real estate firm Hispania was terminated, as a result of which it agreed to receive €224.5 million from Blackstone, which had acquired 74% of Hispania through a takeover.

Original story: Expansión 

Translation: Carmel Drake

CBRE: Investor Interest in High Street Stores Skyrockets

5 July 2018 – Cinco Días

Stores on the most commercial streets of Spain have become an object of desire for investors in the real estate market. Large funds and insurance companies alike are investing in these types of assets and experts predict that a new record is going to be set in the segment this year.

Investors are expected to spend around €1.1 billion on these types of commercial premises in 2018, according to forecasts from the consultancy CBRE. That figure would exceed the amount invested in high street stores in 2017 by €300 million, equivalent to a growth rate of 36.9%. Of interest are shops on commercial thoroughfares such as c/Preciados and c/Serrano in Madrid and Paseo de Gracia and Portal de l’Àngel in Barcelona. In fact, those two cities accounted for 79% of total investment last year. “Nevertheless, other cities in Spain are on the rise and there is growing demand for investment products in cities such as Bilbao, Valencia, Sevilla and Málaga”, according to the report “The Keys to Retail in Spain”, published by CBRE yesterday.

Investors regard these types of well-located assets as a good option for placing their money, a solid alternative in the context of low-interest rates and because these high street stores perform better (than other commercial assets) in the face of competition from online retailers. Currently, according to CBRE; the returns on these properties amount to 3.5% in Barcelona and to 3.25% in Madrid; in other cities (with more risk), the returns are greater.

The stars of these acquisitions are mainly the large funds. Hines, M&G, AEW, Thor, Union Investment, CBRE GI and Deka. “In 2017, in addition, an insurance company entered the high street sector for the first time: Generali acquired the Pull & Bear store on Calle Preciados in Madrid”, according to the report. Other active players include the Socimis, such as Tander, Ores, and Silicius, which have started to express interest.

In terms of large operations so far this year, in January, the German fund Deka acquired 16 Inditex stores for €400 million. Another significant operation was the acquisition of Mercado de San Miguel by the Dutch fund Redevco, for €70 million.

Original story: Cinco Días (by Alfonso Simón Ruiz)

Translation: Carmel Drake