Popular’s €10bn Portfolio Sale Was The Largest RE Operation in the World in 2017

26 March 2018 – Cinco Días

Spain was the setting for the largest real estate operation in the world in 2017. The stars were Santander, as the vendor, and Blackstone, as the buyer. The object of desire was the property portfolio that took down Popular. The price: no less than a valuation of €10 billion.

The purchase of Popular’s property portfolio (containing real estate assets and loans with real estate collateral) led last year’s ranking of the largest operations in the sector involving a single asset or portfolio, compiled by Real Capital Analytics (RCA). Of the largest transactions, those undertaken in China stand out in particular, as well as a handful of deals completed in the United Kingdom. The classification excludes operations involving the purchase of companies.

The operation to sell Popular’s portfolio, announced in August, after Santander took control of the entity in June, was structured into a company worth €10 billion, in which Blackstone controls 51% and the rest remained in the hands of the bank chaired by Ana Botín.

Following that purchase, as well as others, such as Catalunya Caixa’s portfolio, Blackstone is now one of the largest owners of real estate assets in Spain. Another major operation of this nature was closed a few months later when Cerberus purchased 80% of BBVA’s real estate portfolio worth €5.5 billion (…).

In total, around the world, last year, deals worth USD 143.2 billion were closed, which represented an increase of 14% compared to the previous year.

China starred in the majority of the largest operations last year. China Vanke acquired an enormous land portfolio for real estate developments in Cantón for €7.1 billion, which constituted the second largest transaction of 2017. The next largest sale in the Asian country was the purchase of part of an office and retail development in Shenzhen by the company Kingboard, which is headquartered in Hong Kong (…).

In Europe and the USA, the focus was on alternative investments, such as student halls of residence, hospitals and logistics warehouses.

In fact, the third largest transaction in the world last year involved an alternative investment. Specifically, the sale of a stake in a portfolio of hospitals and 200 nursing homes in the USA and UK, which was purchased by the Chinese insurance company Taikang Insurance Group.

In Europe, in addition to Popular’s portfolio, the next largest deal saw the sale of the Bluewater shopping centre in the United Kingdom, worth €2.1 billion, in which Royal London Mutual Assurance acquired a stake.

In terms of office buildings, the sale of the Leadenhall Building in London, popularly known as the “cheese grater”, also stood out; it was acquired by the investment group CC Land, from Hong Kong, for more than €1.3 billion.

Typically, the large buyers include the largest investment managers, such as Blackstone, Brookfield, Deka, THI, Axa, Invesco and Morgan Stanley, whose clients tend to include sovereign funds from Norway and Abu Dhabi, as well as universities (for example, the Harvard investment fund) and workers’ unions or pension funds (German doctors, public sector workers from Korea and Ontario…).

In terms of 2018, for example in Europe, Borja Sierra, Executive Vice-President of Savills Aguirre Newman, believes that the clearest trend will be investment in the residential rental sector as a form of institutionalised real estate investment. “With the scenario of rising interest rates and measures from Trump that favour the renewal of infrastructure in the USA, I think that we will see a migration towards infrastructure funds, a move that will somewhat reduce investment pressure on the real estate sector. Nevertheless, the year has started with volumes that exceed those recorded in 2017, and so we expect a good year”.

Original story: Cinco Días (by Alfonso Simón Ruiz)

Translation: Carmel Drake

RIU Seeks To Grow Its ‘Hotel Plaza’ Business Line

17 May 2017 – Expansión

RIU is on a roll. As it waits for the starting gun to fire on its Edificio España project in Madrid, the Mallorcan hotel chain is analysing other destinations in order to strengthen its Plaza business line, which is strategic for the group, whereby adding new locations to the Plaza brand.

The CEO of RIU and Head of Canary Islands, Morocco, Portugal and Cape Verde, Félix Casado, explained in an interview with Expansión that the group is considering destinations such as Barcelona, Paris and Rome to continue the business it started in 2010, when it opened its first RIU Plaza hotel in Panama. Since then, it has added another five Plaza branded establishments in Berlin, Dublin, Miami, Guadalajara and New York. But, for the time being, it does not have any in Spain. At the beginning of the year, the company announced its plans to team up with Baraka to manage and invest in the mega-hotel that the Murcian group is planning to open in Edificio España.

“We are very excited about the idea of handling this project in Madrid, in particular, in a building as iconic as Edificio España. The negotiations are not proving easy and now we have to wait for the purchase operation to be closed, which has been delayed for three months, before we can start construction”, said the Director. Casado said that his firm’s investment commitment with the Baraka Group “continues”, in line with expectations, with the aim of creating a joint venture to which the hotel chain will contribute 25% of the investment.

In terms of the possibility of undertaking a project on its own, in the event that Baraka does not manage to close the purchase within the scheduled timeframe – i.e. by June – Casado simply said that that option “is not envisaged”. And he added: “The other line would be a separate study that would have to be analysed from the point of view of the required investment and the return”.

Entry into China

Besides the urban business, the hotel group’s growth plan involves expanding into vacation destinations, both in America as well as in Asia.

The company, which operates in 19 countries with almost one hundred hotels, is considering entering China, starting out in cities such as Beijing and Shanghai. “We would be willing to invest in all of these destinations. RIU is going to attend the ITB Tourism Fair in China to consolidate its relations there and create new business opportunities”, said Casado.

In addition, RIU has not ruled out returning to Cuba, which it left in 2015, with the management of new hotels. “We are looking at various possibilities to return to Cuba. We have experience in that destination and if an opportunity arises that fits with out philosophy then we will explore it”.

Renovations

In addition, the hotel group is committed to repositioning its products through major renovation projects. Within the framework of this strategy, the Spanish group will spend €400 million this year on construction and renovations, of which almost €150 million will be spent on improving its hotel portfolio in Spain.

“We are diversifying the product and we are updating it, so as not to get left behind, with the aim of ensuring that our clients are happy, which is one of the priorities of RIU”, he said. Recently, RIU opened the doors to its Club Hotel RIU Costa del Sol in Torremolinos, after combining and renovating the RIU Belplaya and RIU Costa Lago hotels.

Original story: Expansión (by Rebeca Arroyo)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Wanda Negotiates Purchase Of 75% Of Marina d’Or For €1,200M

2 December 2015 – Expansión

The Wanda group is holding negotiations to acquire 75% of the shares in the Spanish holiday complex Marina d’Or, located in Oropesa del Mar (Castellón), which is currently owned by the businessman Jesús Ger.

The purchase will amount to around 8,200 million Chinese Yuan (i.e. around €1,200 million), according to reports yesterday by Diario del Pueblo.

The newspaper reports in its digital edition that the founder and president of the group, Wang Jianlin, the richest man in China, has already visited the complex (which includes a golf course, a theme park, five hotels and a spa, amongst other buildings) together with other representatives from the company.

The official body of China’s Communist Party cites own sources for the basis of its information. When contacted by Efe, the Wanda group declined to make any comments on the subject for the time being.

Meanwhile, the Castellon group did not want to confirm or deny the talks and merely stated that it has been in touch with several Arab, Chinese and other investors over the last few months regarding their interest in its iconic project: Marina d’Or Golf, an urban development plan that was suspended several years ago. The group itself valued the project at €1,300 million, even though not a single brick has yet been laid.

In July, Jianlin revealed that his company would make at least three major overseas acquisitions over the next six months, after it expanded its entry into the sports sector this year with the purchase of Triathlon Corporation, the owner of events’ rights such as Ironman, and Infront, one of the largest sports rights companies in the world. (…).

Original story: Expansión

Translation: Carmel Drake

Chinese Investors Seek Large Housing Developments

27 January 2015 – El Economista

Spain is now very attractive for Asian capital. And so, investors are looking to build authentic Chinese cities in our country. Several Asian funds and companies have been looking for large developments of up to 2,000 homes in Spain, which they will then market in their own countries.

The aim of these investors is to create a genuine Chinatown with a complete set of services, including schools for Chinese children, restaurants, beauty salons and shops run by Chinese businessmen, which would sell products from their own country.

Spain has not traditionally been one of the main destinations for Asian investment, their money has typically ended up in countries such as Canada, USA, Australia, UK and France. Nevertheless, the collapse of housing prices, which have fallen by up to 40%, caused Chinese investment in Spain to double in 2014 over the previous year. It is estimated that Chinese investors purchased 6.5% of all of the homes sold in Spain last year.

Their interest in Spain is growing and although their aims are clear, it is nevertheless almost impossible for them to find developments of the size that they are looking for that are entirely for sale.

According to industry experts, these investors will have to understand that their “city” will have to be smaller. “What they are looking for, in a best case scenario, are developments containing between 200 and 500 homes”, they say.

Undoubtedly, this could represent a very good opportunity for the clean-up of the banks, which are accumulating thousands of residential assets and developments in their portfolios, which have been half completed and foreclosed. Investors are aware that these financial institutions need to offload properties and therefore they hope to acquire properties a bargain prices and then resell them, grouped in packs, to other Chinese citizens.

The Golden Visa

This is where the Golden Visa comes into play. The concept originates from the Entrepreneurs Law, which was approved in September 2013 and which puts a price on Spanish residency. This legislation allows non-EU buyers who purchase property for an amount that exceeds half a million euros to obtain Spanish residency. Although it is worth noting that the law does require them to have that amount of money in cash and does not allow them to resort to any kind of financing.

Moreover, the new investors cannot have a criminal record in Spain, or be present illegally in the country. They must also have private health insurance and sufficient financial resources to support the members of their family for the duration of their residence in Spain.

Thus, the intention of these Chinese companies is to sell groups of homes so that their price reaches the €500,000 threshold. In this way, buyers will be able to acquire a residence permit and therefore do business across the European Union.

The real estate sector looked forward to the arrival of the Golden Visa with baited breath as a means of stimulating activity in the market, however, for the moment, it does not seem that this visa has resulted in the entry of much capital into Spain. One of the main reasons is the failure by the Chinese Government to market the initiative, something which it is doing for some of our neighbouring countries. Portugal is ahead of us in this regard, since its Government has taken steps in China to sell the advantages of investment in its country. Thus, during the first hald of 2014, Chinese investment in Portugal amounted to €33 million, but following President Aníbal Cavaco Silva’s visit to China, investment increased to €760 million during the second half of the year.

Patricio Palomar, Head of Alternative Investment at CBRE stresses, however, that it is important not to loose sight of two aspects when drawing comparisons. “In Portugal, the measure was introduced much earlier, and the two countries have traditionally had strong ties, primarily due to the Portuguese colony of Macao”.

Indeed, one of the richest people in Hong Kong and Macao is Stanley Ho Hung Sun, the largest casino owner, who purchased the Casino Estoril many years ago and has other significant businesses in Portugal. Stanley Ho has Portuguese citizenship and makes investments across Europe through his company in Portugal.

Regarding the arrival of investors such as Wang Jianlin, who plans to invest €3,000 million in the development of a macro-residential project in Madrid, Palomar says that “over the medium term, it is likely that we will see some of the developments being designed and constructed to suit the taste of the great Asian fortunes, and that the most luxurious units will be sold in Asia, and so capital inflows from there will be boosted significantly”.

Original story: El Economista (by Alba Brualla and Virginia Martínez)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Wang Jianlin Plans To Invest €3,000m In Macro-Complex In Madrid

22 January 2015 – Expansión

Following his investment in Atlético de Madrid, the Chinese tycoon, owner of the Edificio España, is studying the possibility of building a residential and tourist complex that would also include casinos. He is considering two locations: Campamento and Venta de la Rubia.

Yesterday, for the first time, the Chinese businessman, Wang Jianlin (pictured), owner of the conglomerate Wanda Group, confirmed his plans for the creation of a residential and leisure macro-complex in Madrid. “We have already had a meeting with the Spanish President and it is now up to Spain to take a decision”, said Wang in China, after signing an agreement to acquire 20% of the Atlético de Madrid football club.

The objective of Wang Jianlin, who has assets of more than $13,200 million, according to the most recent Forbes ranking, is to invest at least €3,000 million in the creation of an upmarket complex that would include up to 15,000 luxury homes. The development would also house leisure areas, such as a retail complex, theme parks and casinos. In fact, Jianlin has already hired the project’s creator from the gaming magnate Sheldon Adelson in Macau, say sources close to the entrepreneur.

Location

In terms of the location of the macro-complex, Wang Jianlin and his team have two options. On the one hand, the site in Venta de la Rubia, in Alcorcón, where Sheldon Adelson was going to build the failed Eurovegas project. On the other hand, an old barracks site in Campamento, in Madrid, which is currently owned by the Ministry of Defence.

In favour of the former are its location, close to Madrid’s tourist attractions, such as the Royal Palace, and crucially, the fact that it has a single owner, the central Government, which would massively simplify future negotiations regarding construction. Against, is the price that Jianlin would have to pay for the site, which covers almost 9 million square metres, and the fact that a development plan already exists and modifications to it may delay construction.

The second option, in Venta de la Rubia, is close to Santander’s business park, as well as to the land where Atlético de Madrid plans to build its new sports facilities; in addition, Wang would be allowed to create a tailor-made development plan for the site. Furthermore, the owners of the land, who are united through a Compensation Board and which include companies such as Metrovacesa and the Urtinsa group, would be willing to hand over some of the land for free – something they already offered to Adelson, according to real estate sources – since the rest would be re-valued.

Regardless of the location that Wang Jianlin and his team finally choose, the construction of this macro-complex would revitalise this area to the south-west of the capital. “The goal is to convert the Paseo de Extremadura into the new Castellana, and develop the whole of the surrounding area through the Jianlin complex”, explain sources close to the businessman.

“He is keen to start very soon”, said Enrique Cerezo, President of Atlético de Madrid, yesterday. Mr Cerezo has acted as a guide to Jianlin during his visits to Madrid. Yesterday, the President of the Community of Madrid, Ignacio González said that  “The regional government is “fully” committed”.

Original story: Expansión (by Rocío Ruiz)

Translation: Carmel Drake