Iberdrola Puts Torre Auditori in Barcelona Up for Sale

19 March 2019 – Idealista

Iberdrola has put Torre Auditori, which forms part of the BCN Fira District business park in Barcelona, up for sale. The property comprises 21 storeys and spans a surface area of 22,899 m2, generating annual rental income of more than €4.3 million. The current occupancy rate of the property is 98% and its tenants include Cepsa, Ferrovial, Marmedesa, Asus and Iberdrola itself.

The building forms part of the business park that the company is constructing on Paseo de la Zona Franca, which currently comprises Torre Auditori and Torre Marina (which is leased to the pharmaceutical firm Esteve). Iberdrola is building two more properties, which will be handed over during the first quarter of 2021.

Original story: Idealista 

Translation: Carmel Drake

El Corte Inglés Plans to Open 1,000 Gas Station Stores in Conjunction with Repsol

15 October 2018 – Real Estate Press

There are almost 11,500 gas stations in Spain, of which more than 8,500 have shops. El Corte Inglés was one of the first groups to operate in conjunction with oil companies and that group is now planning to open 1,000 new gas station stores together with Repsol.

Gas station stores typically have a wide range of opening hours, span an extensive network and are easy to stop at to make quick purchases. It was only a matter of time before distribution groups decided to team up with oil companies to manage their service station stores. Now the time has come for those formats to flourish.

The formula allows supermarket chains to grow rapidly without having to recruit staff or undertake significant investments. Meanwhile, the petrol companies benefit from offering more attractive service stations, with a more extensive range of products and a lower cost base by entrusting the management of their stores to specialists with a volume of purchases that generates significant savings.

Sales at gas station stores amounted to €580 million in 2017, although the potential of this format is much greater.

Forecast growth

El Corte Inglés was one of the first groups to operate agreements with petrol companies. Initially, it constituted the company Gespevesa together with Repsol in 1998, which they control (50%) and which owns 39 service stations. Last year, that entity recorded revenues of €39.2 million, down by 26% and earned profits of €3.8 million, up by 28%. Next, it joined forces with Cepsa to develop a refuelling discount strategy. And, now, it has committed to a major agreement with Repsol to create “the largest network of convenience stores in Spain” under the brand Supercor Stop & Go.

Carrefour has also changed its petrol partner over the years: it started working on this type of alliance with BP, but in 2013, it opted to join Cepsa to grow a new format, Carrefour Express Cepsa, which currently comprises 333 stores. One fact serves to explain the importance of this agreement for the French group, namely, that it is the format with the most stores in around twenty Spanish provinces, including Asturias, Murcia, the Balearic Islands, Castellón, Lleida, Toledo, Valladolid and Zaragoza, amongst others.

Día is the other group that has heavily backed the format, with the launch of a pilot project together with BP in four of its gas stations in Madrid under the Shop brand. Previously, in 2015, Dia signed an agreement in collaboration with Disa (Shell) to supply the counters in five of its stores. BP has also worked with other partners. Between 2013 and 2016, Alcampo supplied products, including its own brand range, to stores in its gas stations. Moreover, BP has operated some regional alliances for years with other smaller supermarket chains to generate benefits through their loyalty cards (…).

Finally, Galp, the fifth largest petrol company in Spain, has not been averse to these agreements either; it has worked with GM Food, the former Miquel Group. Their partnership began in 2013, with 12 pilot stores operating under the Sar brand; it continued the alliance once that project had finished, with the Catalan group as the supplier of its stores; and now, the two firms have started another trial in eight locations under the format Suma Exprés.

Original story: Real Estate Press

Translation: Carmel Drake

BP Acquires 65 Gas Stations in Spain from Avenue Capital and JZ International

2 October 2018

The British oil company has reached an agreement to take over 100% of Kingbook Inversiones Socimi and Petrocorner Retail, the owner and manager of gas stations in 21 provinces of Spain.

The oil company BP has reached an agreement with the venture capital funds Avenue Capital and JZ International for the acquisition of the Kingbook socimi and Petrocorner Retail, a company that owns and operates 65 gas stations spread across 21 provinces in Spain.

The operation has already been finalised, pending the corresponding regulatory approvals, as confirmed by official sources at BP.

Kingbook Inversiones, 60% owned by GL Europe REIT (Avenue), with the remaining 40% held by JZ Real Estate (JZI), both vehicles domiciled in the Cayman Islands, was delisted from the Alternative Stock Market (MAB) on July 20, just one year after its debut.

Kingbook had already warned in June that it was conducting “very advanced” negotiations for the sale of 100% of the company. The firm had been building its portfolio since 2014.

Another source close to the operation said that DISA (Shell in the Peninsula), the Canary Islands oil company chaired by Demetrio Carceller (Damm), also considered acquiring the asset.

The service stations that will become the property of the company formerly known as British Petroleum are distributed between the north, the centre and the southeast of Spain. Specifically, the oil company chaired by Luis Aires in Spain will increase its presence in Asturias, Cantabria, Vizcaya, Guipúzcoa, Navarra, León, Burgos, Zamora, Valladolid, Ávila, Madrid, Valencia, Albacete, Alicante, Murcia, Jaén, Huelva, Málaga, Granada, Almería and the Balearic Islands.

BP is thus consolidating its position as the third largest fuel distributor in Spain, behind Repsol and Cepsa and ahead of Galp and Shell. With this agreement, BP will control around 700 service stations in Spain. In 2017, the company stated, within its expansion strategy, that it owned 648 total stations.

Until now, these gas stations were operated by Petrocorner, which has also acquired BP. According to Petrocorner’s website, the service stations are branded by Repsol, Cepsa, BP, Shell, Galp, Avia, while some are independent.

According to the latest accounts sent to the Mercantile Registry, Kingbook lost more than €1.5 million in 2017, compared to a loss of €1,733,446 in 2016.

Although the price of the transaction was not disclosed, the statement company submitted to MAB said that its assets were valued, according to the consultancy CBRE, at approximately 70 million euros (€40 million book value).

Avenue Capital has participated in several important operations in Spain. The US fund gave financial support to Quabit and is participating in the purchase of debt from Banco Santander’s Ciudad Financeira. In June, the fund acquired tile company Roig Cerámica (Rocersa).

Original Story: El Confidencial – Juan Cruz Peña

Photo: Reuters

Translation: Richard Turner

A Swap from ING & CaixaBank: the Last Stumbling Block in the Sale of Santander’s HQ to AGC

27 July 2018 – Voz Pópuli

The sale of the company that owns Santander’s Ciudad Financiera is closer than ever to becoming a reality. The approval of the liquidation plan by a Madrilenian court set September as the deadline for offers. Nevertheless, there are still disputes to be resolved.

The main stumbling block now is a lawsuit in London against a swap (financial derivative) granted by five entities: Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), CaixaBank, ING, HSH Nordbank and AG Bayerische Landesbank. The lawsuit, filed years ago, is based on a claim that RBS manipulated the interbank – LIBOR and Euribor – market. The lawsuit amounts to €800 million, given that the swap has cost around €90 million per year since 2008, according to financial sources consulted by this newspaper.

The discussion in Spain focuses on the fact that some of the creditors of Santander’s headquarters fear that the new owner of the company (Marme Inversiones 2007) will decide to shelve that lawsuit. It would require an agreement between the new Marme and the five banks party to the swap in exchange for renegotiating the derivative, which expires in 2023.

AGC’s offer

Those €800 million, if the process in London proves successful, could mean that all of the creditors recover their money. In particular, the original shareholder, the Brit Glen Maud, and the company Edgeworth Capital, owned by the Iranian investor Robert Tchenguiz, who took positions during the bankruptcy.

Other sources consulted indicate that there is a commitment from the main interested party in the Ciudad Financiera, the Arab fund AGC Equity Partners, to keep the Marme litigation case open.

Currently, the only offer on the table is the one presented by AGC in 2016 for between €2.5 billion and €2.8 billion, depending on the variables that are included. A year earlier, Aabar Investments, the owner of Cepsa, and Edgeworth, also submitted bids. But they were not accepted.

As we wait to see what will happen over the next two months, AGC leads the rest of the candidates to acquire Santander’s headquarters.

One of the possible counter-offers could come from Edgeworth, which negotiated a €2 billion loan with JPMorgan to participate in the liquidation plan. It also proposed that the company exit from bankruptcy without the need to be liquidated.

This operation would generate a sale with significant gains for the funds that entered the process by buying Marme’s debt from financial institutions. They include Blackstone, Canyon and Monarch.

Original story: Voz Pópuli (by Jorge Zuloaga)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Santander Unblocks Sale Of Ciudad Financiera After AGC’s Mega-Offer

15 September 2017 – Voz Pópuli

The soap opera involving the sale of Santander’s Ciudad Financiera is closer than ever to being resolved. The Arab fund AGC Equity Partners, Santander and the majority of the creditors have reached an understanding to unblock the process, which has been stalled for three years, after the company that administers Santander’s global headquarters, Marme Inversiones 2007, filed for bankruptcy.

The key has been the size of the new offer presented in recent months by AGC, amounting to around €2,800 million, according to financial sources consulted by Vozpópuli. With this proposal, all of the creditors would receive the amounts due to them and there would even be some funds left over to share out amongst Marme’s original shareholders: the property magnate Glenn Maud and the fund Aabar Investments, controlled by IPIC, which owns Cepsa.

AGC has already informed the judge handling the bankruptcy – at Mercantile Court number 9 in Madrid – that the situation is now ready to be unblocked. But the magistrate has left everything hinging on the Provincial Court, which still has to resolve several prior appeals. Various sources consulted indicate that these resolutions could be resolved by the end of this year or the beginning of 2018. Then the formal auction of the company that owns the Ciudad Financiera could be launched, with AGC as the main favourite, assuming no last minute surprises.

Santander’s role

One of the keys behind sorting out the sale of the Ciudad Financiera is that Santander has withdrawn an appeal that threatened to perpetuate the bankruptcy process. In this way, the bank chaired by Ana Botín, advised by Clifford Chance, decided to submit a letter alleging that the Marme liquidation plan was not taking into accounts its right to sound out the market (for potential buyers).

In addition, Santander engaged Goldman Sachs to look for offers that would better fit with their interests. Paradoxically, the firm that is now best positioned to win – AGC – is the same one that blocked the bank’s appeal. According to legal sources, Santander pays an annual rent of around €110 million for the property and the rental contract runs until 2048, neither of which would vary under the new owner. But there are other clauses in the agreement that would be changed in favour of Santander.

The final stumbling block is the position of two of the players that invested in Marme Inversiones after it filed for bankruptcy: Aabar Investment, which purchased the shares of one of the original shareholders, the British businessman Derek Quinlan, and which would like to buy the Ciudad Financiera itself; and the Luxembourg company Edgeworth Capital, led by the controversial Iranian banker Robert Tchenguiz.

Sources close to the process think that it will be hard for their appeals to gain traction in the face of AGC’s willingness to repay all the creditors; something that no other investor has offered until now. The other recent offers amounted to between €2,400 million and €2,500 million.

Origin of the problem

Marme Inversiones 2007 filed for bankruptcy in 2014 after it was unable to pay its debts. The company was created in 2008 with very heavy financial burdens, at the worst time, shortly after the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers. Marme paid €1,900 million for Santander’s headquarters in Boadilla del Monte.

Now the situation is just the opposite. The good times in the market mean that obtaining financing is cheaper than it has been for the last decade, something that AGC wants to take full advantage of to seal this complex operation.

Original story: Voz Pópuli (by Jorge Zuloaga)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Ortega Acquires Torre Cepsa For €490M

3 October 2016 – La Opinión A Coruña

On Friday, the founder of Inditex, Amancio Ortega, completed the acquisition of Torre Cepsa in Madrid, for around €490 million, according to sources close to the operation. Ortega submitted his offer through his real estate company Pontegadea to IPIC, the Abu Dhabi state fund, owner of the oil and gas company Cepsa, which has leased the property, owned until now by Bankia, since 2013.

The building, one of the four towers in the north of Paseo de la Castellana, has a surface area measuring more than 109,000 sqm, including offices covering a gross leasable area of 56,250 sqm and a five-storey car park measuring 37,500 sqm.

The operation was completed in two phases. In the first phase, Khadem Al Qubaisi, the former director general of IPIC, exercised his purchase option, worth around €400 million to acquire the building. He then immediately sold the property onto Pontegadea for €490 million.

In October 2013, Bankia signed an agreement to lease the tower, designed by Norman Foster, which houses the corporate headquarters of Cepsa. The contract had an eight-year term, extendable for another seven years on a year by year basis. But it included a future purchase option, which the tenant had the right to exercise for a price to be determined at the time of the operation, on the basis of objective criteria agreed in advance.

As such, Amancio Ortega has acquired his second skyscraper on La Castellana, following his purchase of Torre Picasso, in 2011, for €400 million. The richest man in Spain and the second wealthiest man in the world also owns number 32 on Madrid’s Gran Vía, which makes him the landlord of some of Zara’s key rival brands such as Mango, H&M and Primark.

This purchase expands Ortega’s property portfolio, which used to be worth around €6,000 million – and is now worth more, if only because of the significant income that will result in terms of rental payments -. And the buildings that Pontegadea buys have a clear profile: iconic, historical buildings, dedicated to commercial and office use that can be rented to companies and institutions that are significant because of their size or solvency. The firm has a genuine real estate empire in Madrid, Barcelona and the main capital cities of Europe and the USA, but in recent months, it has also started to set its sights on Asia. (…).

Pontegadea’s bid was most favoured by IPIC even though it was not the highest – it had received others for €530 million – but the fund ruled those out because it preferred the liquidity and seriousness of Ortega’s offer.

Original story: La Opinión A Coruña

Translation: Carmel Drake

Mastercard & Commerzbank Move Into Torre de Cristal

13 September 2016 – El Confidencial

The Cuatro Torres district is the new “City” in Madrid and is one of the areas where the leading real estate players have been operating with the most intensity over the last two years. The company chaired by Ignacio Garralda, Mutua Madrileña, fired the starting gun in February 2015, when it signed an agreement with KPMG to lease 18 floors in the Torre de Cristal, a third of the entire building, in an operation that allowed it to boost its occupancy rate from 42% to 70%.

Just four months later, Grupo Villar Mir put Torre Espacio up for sale, which the Philippine Group Emperador ended up buying for €558 million. By then, the skyscraper where PwC has its headquarters – the black tower that is also home to the Eurostars Hotel – had already changed hands, thanks to Merlin’s acquisition of Testa, and the sheikh Khadem al Qubaisi had already started putting the feelers out to sell Torre Cepsa, the skyscraper for which Amancio Ortega has offered to pay €490 million, according to El Confidencial.

Amidst this game of Monopoly being played out at the north of Paseo de la Castellana, two overseas financial entities, Mastercard and Commerzbank, have decided to transfer their offices to Torre de Cristal, the highest building in Spain, which measures 250m tall and contains 52 floors.

The credit card company has already moved into the skyscraper, whilst the German bank is currently undertaking refurbishment work ahead of its move before the end of the year.

But these two entities are not the only ones who have decided to move into the building owned by Mutua Madrileña. In recent months, following the arrival of KPMG with its 1,900 professionals, Torre de Cristial has seen a significant increase in the number of itstenants, after sealing several agreements with companies such as Red Hat, Cerner and Gesternova, which has allowed it to increase its occupancy rate to more than 82% and lease out a further 5,000 sqm.

Hardly any free floors left

The direct impact of the appetite for these skyscrapers from tenants and owners alike means that there are hardly any free floors left in the Cuatro Torres district (…).

Tower Sacyr (now owned by Merlin) is the only fully occupied tower, but it had to drastically reduce its rental prices to reach an agreement with PwC in 2011, during the worst years of the crisis, in order to acheive that.

Bankia also demanded that Cepsa occupy 100% of Torre Foster, but the oil company has now decided to put eight vacant floors up for rent. Those floors have a surface area of 13,000 sqm, a figure that is slightly higher than the 10,200 sqm that is also being marketed in Torre Espacio, the skyscraper where the main tenant is Grupo Villar Mir, which occupies half of the building.

These numbers show that the average occupancy figure for the Cuatro Torres district now exceeds 80%, a ratio that it has reached at a time when Azca, the traditional financial district in Madrid, is seeing a significant number of its properties undergo profound transformations.

The Cuatro Torres area will be further consolidated as a business centre with the upcoming construction of the so-called Fifth Tower, a skyscraper being developed by Grupo Villar Mir, in partnership with the fund Corestate, which Instituto de Empresa will occupy along with the health group Quirón, according to experts.

Original story: El Confidencial (by Ruth Ugalde)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Amancio Ortega Offers €490M For Torre Cepsa

28 June 2016 – El Confidencial

Amancio Ortega has entered the bidding, through Pontegadea, to acquire Cepsa’s skyscraper, by placing an offer on the table worth €490 million, according to sources familiar with the operation.

The owner of Inditex is thereby setting himself up to undertake his largest operation in the country to date, in a deal that would rank well above the figure of €400 million that he paid for the iconic Torre Picasso, the building he acquired from Esther Koplowitz almost five years ago.

Then, like now, the businessman approached the operation without the need to request financing from the banks – he has a wealth that differentiates him from the other candidates and enables him to bid slightly below the other interested parties.

In addition to Pontegadea, two other funds have expressed their interest in putting €530 million on the table, according to sources. Clearly, those bids are higher than Ortega’s, but they are linked to certain financial and payment structures that are a long way from offering the guarantees that Pontegadea provides to all vendors.

The hunt

Thanks to his dividend from Inditex, the businessman receives an annual cheque amounting to €1,100 million, which he uses, almost entirely, to acquire properties. This policy has converted Pontegadea into one of the largest real estate owners in Spain, comparable only with the newly created Merlin-Metrovacesa and Colonial.

Nevertheless, the dimensions of this remuneration mean that it is becoming increasingly difficult for the second richest man in the world to find opportunities in Spain. His interests focus on operations with at least eight zeros in the price, and as a result he has multiplied the number of operations undertaken overseas in recent years. (…)

Despite his financial prowess and the increasing challenge of finding desirable properties, Pontegadea remains faithful to its conservative policy and avoids processes that involve increasing the price in the final stretch.

In fact, its offer for Cepsa falls a long way below the €550 million asking price that the Sheik Khadem al Qubaisi hopes to obtain. The Sheik owns the purchase option over the Madrilenian skyscraper and has until September to exercise it if he wants to stop Bankia from taking over the asset once again. (…).

Nevertheless, Pontegadea is remaining firm in its valuation of the building, a figure that, if they end up closing the operation, will be significantly lower than the €558 million paid by the Philippine Group Emperador to acquire Torre Espacio. Nevertheless, according to several experts in the sector, there are important differences between the two operations, not least the higher risk of having OHL as a tenant rather than Cepsa.

The 248 metre tall skyscraper, designed by Norman Foster, has a leasable surface area of 56,000 sqm, spread over 34 floors. The sale has sparked interest from large institutional investors, such as Invesco, AEW, Deka, Hines, Patrizia, Etoile Properties and Axa.

Original story: El Confidencial (by Ruth Ugalde)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Ipic Finalises Sale Of Torre Cepsa For €500M+

3 May 2016 – Expansión

Ipic, the Abu Dhabi state fund behind the oil company Cepsa, is trying the sell the so-called Torre Foster for a price that could range between €500 million and €600 million.

Ipic is negotiating with a small group of foreign funds, including, some investors from the Middle East. The operation will mark a milestone in the new boom that the real estate sector in Spain is currently experiencing and will serve to boost other projects currently on the horizon, such as the so-called fifth tower, which the businessman Juan Miguel Villar Mir wants to construct in the Cuatro Torres complex, where the Foster skyscraper is located.

That price is significantly higher than the figure of between €400 million and €450 million that the Torre Foster, now renamed Torre Cepsa, given that it houses the headquarters of the oil company, was valued at when Ipic signed a call option to purchase the building from Bankia back in 2013.

That option has not been exercised yet. It will be exercisable after the summer. Hence, Ipic has accelerated the negotiations to acquire the building and, almost immediately, sell it on to a third party. Technically, the property is still owned by Bankia.

Gain for Abu Dhabi

The additional value that Ipic obtains for the building, if it manages to sell it to a third party for more than the price established in the call option, will represent a gain for the fund, in other words, for the Government of the Arab Emirate of Abu Dhabi.

Ipic (International Petroleum Investment Company) operates as a sovereign fund for channelling investments in energy and other similar sectors by the Government of Abu Dhabi. The group owns assets amounting to USD 68,000 million and holds investments in around twenty companies, of which Cepsa is the largest.

Bankia’s agreement with Ipic seemed like a great deal for the bank at the time. Back then, in the midst of the hangover from the real estate crisis, the price established for the option to sell the building was very attractive. In addition, Ipic rented out the whole building to house Cepsa’s headquarters, although the oil company did not end up occupying all of the floors.

The tower has a surface area of more than 100,000 m2, of which around 72,312 m2 relates to above ground offices and a further 37,500 m2 corresponds to five underground floors.

The agreement between Bankia and Ipic included a lease contract for an extendable eight-year term. This long-term contract is another of the elements that will increase the value of the building in the event that Ipic ends up selling it to a third party. At the moment, Bankia charges Ipic a monthly rent of €1.6 million, through the company Torre Norte S.A.. Ipic pays for the rent through the company Muscari Development, B.V., which is domiciled in The Netherlands. That price includes discounts that end in June 2016. The lease contract includes the call option to buy the entire building. (…). The Ipic group began to evaluate options for selling the building at the end of last summer, following the collapse of the global oil prices. (…).

Original story: Expansión (by M.Á.Patiño and R.Arroyo)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Kingbook: A New Socimi Enters The Petrol Station Segment

22 April 2016 – El Confidencial

It may become the twentieth listed Socimi, but it will also be the first to bring some very particular assets onto the stock exchange: petrol stations. According to reports, the company in question is called Kingbook and it was constituted as a Socimi in October 2015 – previously it was registered as a limited company – although it has not debuted on the Alternative Investment Market (MAB) yet, since the Law allows it two years to list and be able to benefit from the tax advantages of its structure.

Currently, fifteen Socimis are listed on the MAB, with a range of different profiles: property owners, companies that own residential assets, offices, hotels, hospitals, car parks and even homes for senior citizens, but none of them have any petrol stations in their portfolios. Three other Socimis also list on the main stock market (Axia Real Estate, Lar España and Hispania) and one lists on the Ibex 35, Merlin Properties.

Kingbook is fully owned by Allocate Inversiones, which also owns 100% of Petrocorner, a joint venture created at the end of 2014 by the US private equity firm Avenue Capital and the British firm JZ Capital, and chaired by an expert in the sector, Juan Manuel Ayuso Torres. Its objective it to invest €300 million in the acquisition of around 100 service stations in Spain, which, in practice, would mean it taking control of 3% of the assets in the sector.

Two private equity houses are backing the new Socimi

According to Expansión, the two private equity firms are looking for independently-owned service stations that have annual sales of more than 4 million litres of fuel. Currently, Petrocorner’s strategy is “multibrand” and it has contracts with the main companies in the sector, including Repsol, Cepsa, Shell, BP and Galp.

“We are investing in the acquisition of service stations in Spain because that is where we are finding assets with attractive prices, with potential to benefit from the recovery in demand for petrol-related products as the economy improves. Moreover, we expect to see an increase in sales of other products in service station stores and we should be able to improve the profitability of those stores by centralising purchasing and other functions”, said Miguel Rueda, Partner at JZ Capital a few months ago.

Although Kingbook focuses on the acquisition and development of urban real estate for lease, it will definitely be the first Socimi to specialise in the management and lease of petrol stations, a booming sector in recent years thanks to operations such as the ones completed by these two private equity firms and those involving the Eroski group.

In February, the supermarket chain sold a batch of 36 hypermarkets to Carrefour for €205 million, in an operation that also involved the transfer of 22 petrol stations. Five years ago, in May 2011, Eroski also completed a high-profile operation, on that occasion involving the sale & leaseback of 28 petrol stations to Axa Real Estate for an approximate value of €55 million. Two operations that revealed the appetite of international investors for this kind of asset. (…).

Original story: El Confidencial (by E. Sanz)

Translation: Carmel Drake