EU Concern Over Rapid House Price Rises in Spain

21 March 2018 – Eje Prime

Spain is now one of the countries in the European Union (EU) where house prices are growing the fastest. The Spanish residential market ended 2017 with an average growth in prices of 7.2%, exceeding the YoY variation rates in most of the continent’s major economic powers such as Germany, France and the United Kingdom, according to data from Eurostat.

This data, together with the bubble that the country suffered during the final years of the last decade and the beginning of this one, have raised concerns beyond Spain’s borders. There, according to reports by Cinco Días, observers see that the pattern of the previous bullish phase is being repeated.

During the third quarter of the year, for example, house prices across the EU markets as a whole increased by 4.1% in nominal terms. Out of all the countries in the Union, five stood out for their double-digit growth, namely: the Czech Republic (12.3%), Ireland (12.0%), Hungary (10.2%), the Netherlands (10.2%) and Portugal (10.4%).

Established economies such as the German, French and British saw their house prices rise by around 3%. Specifically, the price of housing in France grew by 3.1% last year; in the United Kingdom, the increase amounted to 2.8%; and in Germany, 1.8%. Meanwhile, Italy continued to see price decreases in its residential sector, with a reduction of 2% YoY last year. By city, London, Amsterdam, Madrid and Dublin are going to be the metropolises where prices grow by the most in 2018, with double-digit rises forecast, according to a study by Dbrs.

Original story: Eje Prime

Translation: Carmel Drake

CBRE: Madrid Is EMEA’s 3rd Most Attractive City For RE Investors

30 March 2017 – Mis Oficinas

Madrid is the third most attractive city in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (the EMEA region) for real estate investment. At least that is according to the “Global Investors Intentions 2017” report compiled by CBRE, the leading real estate consultancy and services company in the world, based on a survey of 2,000 international investors.

According to the study, London leads the ranking of the most attractive cities for real estate investment, after it was chosen by 17% of investors. It was followed by Berlin (15.8%) and Madrid (8.4%). Amsterdam and Paris complete the top five (…). For the first time in 2017, cities such as Hamburg and Milan did not appear in the top ten, due to growing concerns from investors about (high) asset prices in some of Europe’s most established markets, following years of increases.

“Madrid is a very attractive city for international investors for a variety of reasons. Prices here are still below those of other markets, and in recent years, some very interesting renovation and development projects have been launched. Similarly, rental income is forecast to rise. These factors caused investment in the Spanish capital to exceed €4,000 million in 2016”, said Paloma Relinque, National Director of Capital Markets at CBRE Spain.

Meanwhile, Spain is ranked sixth in the list of the most attractive countries to invest in, whereby maintaining its top-10 position, against competition from all of the countries in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. In this sense, Germany is the market of choice for 22% of those surveyed as an investment market in 2017. It is followed by the United Kingdom (20%), Eastern Europe (10%), Scandinavia (10%) and The Netherlands (9%).

In terms of the sectors that these investors plan to invest in, the office market was mentioned the most, by 34.7% of investors. It was followed by the industrial-logistics sector, chosen by 25.9% of respondents. Nevertheless, one of the most interesting conclusions was the growing appetite for alternative assets, in which 7 out of every 10 real estate investors are now investing. Specifically, real estate debt is the segment that is sparking the most interest amongst investors (31%), followed by leisure and entertainment (27%) – which is the segment that grew by the most in comparison to the previous year – and student halls of residence (25%).

On the other hand, the report described investors’ main concerns for 2017. The most frequently mentioned concern was the risk that interest rates rise more quickly than expected, a fear cited by a quarter of the investors surveyed. It is noteworthy that, despite the numerous elections on the horizon in Europe and their possible implications for the sector, investors place greater importance on the economic climate than on geopolitical matters. The third concern is the fact that prices are forecast to increase and the risk of a possible bubble. (…).

Original story: Mis Oficinas

Translation: Carmel Drake

Mirabaud: Concerns Grow Regarding Socimi Corporate Governance

2 February 2017 – Expansión

Under the magnifying glass / Remuneration systems based on asset values, such as those used by Merlin and Lar España, have been criticised in the market, above all given that these real estate companies are not actually performing that well on the stock market.

(…). Last summer, some critical voices began to be heard, when Metagestión, a Spanish investment firm, lashed out against Lar’s remuneration scheme. Now, a report from Mirabaud about the real estate market and, specifically, about the Socimis, openly states that “corporate governance is still a problem in the sector”.

In addition to Lar España, the report analyses Hispania, Axiare and Merlin Properties. The analysts express their “concern about the high incentives that the real estate companies have to grow, regardless of the conditions in the market”. Mirabaud’s financial experts explain that “on the basis of conversations that we have had with several experts, there is growing discomfort regarding the corporate governance of Spain’s real estate companies”.

Variable bonuses

Socimi’s are managed in one of two ways: internally, when the management team forms part of the Socimi, such as in the case of Merlin and Axiare; and externally, where the management team forms part of another company, which in turn manages the Socimi, such as in the case of Lar España and Hispania, which are managed by Grupo Lar and Azora, respectively. Irrespective of this management structure, the remuneration that the directors receive can also take two forms.

On the one hand, the directors may receive a management fee by way of fixed or basic remuneration. Then, they may be assigned a bonus over the medium or long-term, on the basis of various parameters. As a general rule, the benchmark used is the evolution of the net value of the assets under management, excluding capital increases. This bonus is known as a performance fee and it is what is concerning investors the most. In some cases, these fees are received through a share delivery program.

One of the most talked about aspects is the basis upon which this incentive is calculated, namely: the growth in the asset value of the company (NAV), given that this is conditioning the market and forcing companies to carry out capital increases to continue buying assets. With the exception of Axiare, “the other real estate companies under analysis all carried out capital increases in 2016” explain the analysts, who add that, in the majority of cases, the operations that were performed were “debatable”. (…).

Provisions

In the case of Hispania, the incentive is not linked to NAV, but instead to the volume of profits recorded and distributed to the shareholders as cash flow. “Everything seems to indicate that the incentives will remain at similar levels and will continue to be paid until 2020, but their calculation will have to be adapted to reflect an operational company, which means that they will have to be linked to the NAV or the share price. We think that it is very likely that the incentives will have to be provisioned for once the company no longer has a clear settlement date”, states the report from Mirabaud.

The latent criticisms have emerged at a time when, despite the fact that the Socimis have expanded their portfolios, their performance on the stock exchange has been mediocre to say the least. With the exception of Axiare, the other large Socimis have been trading below their maximum share prices for the last year and a half. As such, between 2014 and the first half of 2016, the net asset value (NAV) by share had decreased in the case of Lar and Merlin (by -15% and -1%) and had grown very modestly in the case of Hispania (14%), compared with that of Axiare (30%) and other groups in the sector, such as Colonial (43%).

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

Translation: Carmel Drake

Madrid Río Shopping Centre Will Open In October 2017

15 April 2016 – Expansión

Located opposite the Matadero, the shopping centre will open in October 2017 and will be directly accessible from the M-30.

The Plaza Río 2 shopping centre will open in October 2017 with a new design that will include an access road between Calle Matilde Gayo and the Manzanares river, as demanded by Carmena’s Government. “At the request of the Town Hall, there will be a wider than planned street connecting (the shopping centre) with the river. In addition, the façade will be more modern and less palatial, in order to better blend in with the environment”, said Bertrand Chevallereau yesterday, the CEO of Sociedad General Inmobiliaria de España (LGSIE), the property developer behind the new shopping centre.

Located in Usera, next to the Matedero Madrid, Plaza Río 2 will have three parking levels, three shopping floors and a terrace with eight restaurants. The lowest floor will be 7m below the level of the river. According to José Solana, Commercial Director of Sociedad de Centros Comerciales de España (SCCE), the project will comprise 150 stores including an Alcampo hypermarket, all of the Inditex brands, electrical appliance shops and a few sports stores “such as, for example, Décimas”.

Of the 150 stores, 30 will be large brands and the rest, 120, will be small and medium-sized retailers. “We have given priority to local retailers wanting to move in or open a second store in the shopping centre, but in general they do not want to move in as they cannot afford the investment or because they have concerns about moving here”, said Solana.

The shopping centre will be opened on a surface area measuring 40,000 m2, but there will not be any leisure facilities such as cinemas, bowling allies or recreational shops as there is not enough space, given that the shopping centre alone will take up 75% of the site. “What’s more, Matadero Madrid already organises lots of cultural events”, added Chevallereau.

Besides the obstacle to access the river directly, the main complaint lodged by Madrid Río’s neighbourhood associations relates to concerns that the construction of a new shopping centre will harm local retailers in the area and may cause transport problems. In this sense, Chevallereau said that local retailers have concerns that “are unfounded, at least in part”

By way of example, he referred to La Vaguada shopping centre – also built by the LSGI investment and development group – where he says that “many businesses have been generated around the building because it is an attraction for the public”. For Chevallereau, “the new shopping centre will not represent competition to small businesses but rather a dialogue”.

In terms of the disruption that traffic may cause in the area, he stressed that the shopping centre will be connected directly to the M-30, where the road exits the Manzanares tunnel, which means that “many cars will access it that way, without having to drive around the streets bordering the shopping centre”.

Original story: Expansión (by Noelia Marín)

Translation: Carmel Drake

NH’s Minority Shareholders May Ask To Join The Board

29 May 2015 – Expansión

29 June / The agenda for NH’s shareholders’ meeting does not currently include the appointment of any new directors. UBS now holds a 4.36% stake.

In the interests of progress in terms of corporate governance and to increase transparency, many listed companies, including the NH Hotel Group, are adapting their corporate bylaws to the new Capital Company Act. Thus, NH will include a item on the agenda of its shareholders’ meeting, which will be held on 29 June, about the reasonable balance of its board of directors, whose composition should reflect the relationship between the stable and free-floating capital.

In fact, the composition of NH’s board of directors has sparked unrest amongst the fund managers and minority shareholders due to the hotel group’s decision to not cover the two vacant positions left by Intesa Sanpaolo, when it sold its shares, by independent directors. Yesterday, their fears were confirmed. The agenda for the shareholders’ meeting includes the ratification of two directors – Francisco Román as an independent director and Ling Zhang as a representative of HNA, the majority shareholder of NH – and the renewal of two other directors – José María López-Elola, as an independent director and José Antonio Castro, as a representative of the Hesperia Group. There was no mention of any new appointments.

NH’s board comprises 11 people in total: four representatives of HNA – which holds a 29.5% stake -, two from Hesperia – with a 9.09% stake -, three independent directors, the CEO – Federico González Tejera – and the Chairman – Rodrigo Echenique-, who continues in the role despite the exit of Banco Santander, the shareholder that he previously represented.

Nevertheless, the composition of the board may change in the short term. The 8.56% stake held by Santander was distributed amongst three (fund) managers, which already held stakes in NH: BlackRock, Oceanwood and Henderson. The first two now hold more than 7.5%. The funds, which have shared their concerns about the reduction in (the size of) the board with NH, will request their own inclusion on the board of directors and their request may be discussed at the shareholders’ meeting. According to the bylaws, shareholders that represent at least 3% of the share capital have five days following the announcement of the shareholders’ meeting to request the inclusion of one or more items on the agenda.

Meanwhile, UBS now owns a 4.36% stake. On 21 May, the Swiss bank purchased 9.13 million shares from Santander for €46.57 million.

The Chairman

Rodrigo Echenique received €300,000 in 2014. This year, he will receive €200,000, i.e. 33% less.

The CEO

Federico González Tejera, the CEO, earned €1.62 million (in 2014), up 34%. His variable salary amounted to €788,000.

The other board members

In addition to Echenique and Tejera, the 16 people that held positions on the board in 2014 received €692,000 in total.

Original story: Expansión (by Yovanna Blanco)

Translation: Carmel Drake