Spain’s Banks Race Against the Clock to Sell Off Their Problem RE Assets

28 May 2018 – Eje Prime

The banks are facing a new record. The entities have cut their problem assets almost in half over the last four years, but now they are trying to get rid of thousands of properties in record time to keep the supervisor happy, along with investors. The Bank of Spain warned just this week that the volume of impaired assets continues to be high, given that foreclosed assets amount to €58 billion and doubtful loans still amount to almost €100 billion, something that concerns the ECB and penalises the sector on the stock market.

Specifically, Spanish banks’ problem assets amounted to €152 billion at the end of 2017, a very high volume, but 46% lower than the €280 billion registered as at December 2013.

In addition to the cost that maintaining these assets on the balance sheet has for entities, they also prevent them from allocating resources to other activities more in keeping with the banking sector that would generate higher returns, which worsens the problems of returns in the sector especially at a time of very low interest rates.

In 2017, in the face of clear pressure on the banks to significantly reduce their problem assets, the Spanish market resurfaced to account for approximately 50% of the European market for the sale of problem assets, recall the experts.

The announcement by Cerberus of its purchase of 80% of BBVA’s problem assets and the acquisition by Blackstone of 51% of Aliseda and of Popular’s non-performing assets clearly marked a turning point.

And currently, taking into account the portfolios that are up for sale and the forecasts for the reduction in non-performing assets in the plans of many Spanish banks, a high volume of transactions is also expected in 2018.

The entities are on the case

Sabadell is planning to decrease its non-performing assets by €2 billion per year until 2020, although, depending on investor appetite and the agreements with the Deposit Guarantee Fund (FGD), that figure may rise considerably in 2018, explain sources at Funcas.

Meanwhile, in its strategic plan for 2018-2020, Bankia is forecasting the sale of €2.9 billion problem assets per year, even though the entity got rid of much of its real estate hangover with the creation of Sareb, the bad bank.

The placement on the market of this significant volume of assets is not only limited to the large entities; it is also involving smaller firms such as Ibercaja and Liberbank, which are also planning to divest assets.

In the case of the former, its plans involve cutting its problem assets in half between now and 2020, which translates into a decrease of around €600 million per year, whilst Liberbank is looking at reductions of €900 million per year until 2020.

For 2018, Santander has set itself the objective of €6 billion, whilst Sareb is aiming for €3 billion, which shows the real commitment that the entities have to cleaning up their balance sheets and to keeping the supervisor, and the markets, happy. Now they just need to deliver.

Original story: Eje Prime

Translation: Carmel Drake

Sabadell Set to Sell €10bn of Toxic RE in June After Receiving Deluge of Binding Offers

25 May 2018 – El Confidencial

Banco Sabadell has entered the home stretch of its mission to sell all of its toxic property, a rapid process that is expected to be completed in June. The entity has received a deluge of binding offers for the four portfolios that it currently has up for sale – Coliseum, Challenger, Makalu and Galerna – which have a combined gross value of more than €10 billion.

The first two portfolios contain foreclosed assets (REOs) and include Cerberus, Blackstone, Lone Star and Oaktree as potential buyers (in the final round); meanwhile, the other two portfolios comprise secured loans with real estate collateral (NPLs) and their potential buyers include Deutsche Bank, Lone Star, Bain Capital and Oaktree, according to confirmation from several market sources.

These proposals are now with the Steering Committee, which means that, once that body has given its verdict, the process will be passed to the Board of Directors, chaired by Josep Oliu (pictured above, right), which is the body that has to ratify the name of the winner.

In theory, this ruling is going to be issued within a matter of weeks, in June and, in any case, before August. Sources at the entity have declined to comment on either the finalists or the calendar.

Portfolios and the FGD

Having chosen the names of the winners, Sabadell will be able to close the sale of Challenger, the largest of all of these portfolios, with a gross volume of almost €5 billion; it is the only one that does not need approval from the Deposit Guarantee Fund (FGD), given that all of the assets contained therein come from the Catalan entity itself.

By contrast, the €2.5 billion in properties that comprise Coliseum come from the former entity CAM – Caja de Ahorros del Mediterráneo – and, therefore, need to be approved by the FGD, since it would have to cover 80% of the losses. The same applies to Makalu (€2.5 billion in loans) and Galerna (€900 million).

The need to receive this approval means that it is likely that the entity will have to wait until next year to deconsolidate all of these toxic assets, although it will be able to sign a sales agreement conditional upon that authorisation, like BBVA did in the case of the sale agreed with Cerberus last year to transfer all of its property, some of which is also subject to the FGD’s approval.

By contrast, this year, Sabadell could remove almost €5 billion in the form of Challenger from its perimeter, a step forward in terms of fulfilling the requirements of the European Central Bank (ECB), which is putting pressure on Spanish entities to remove the impact of a decade of real estate crisis from their balances sheets.

Solvia is being left out of the sale

At the end of the first quarter, the entity held €14.9 billion in problem assets, down by 17.6% compared to a year earlier, with an average coverage ratio of 55.2% (56.6% for doubtful debt and 53.7% for foreclosed assets), a percentage that serves as a reference for the funds when calculating their offer prices.

With the sale of all of these portfolios, the entity would reduce its real estate exposure to less than €5 billion.  Since the beginning of the crisis, that exposure has been managed by Sabadell’s own servicer: Solvia.

Some of the finalist funds had asked the entity to include Solvia in the transaction, according to Voz Pópuli, but in the end, that possibility has been ruled out by the bank, as it considers that the valuation of its asset manager is higher than the price that would be offered by funds.

In addition, as El Confidencial revealed, the servicer has created its own property developer, Solvia Desarrollos Inmobiliarios, which has €1,252 million in managed assets and which is also finalising an agreement with Oaktree to create a joint venture promoter.

Original story: El Confidencial (by Ruth Ugalde)

Translation: Carmel Drake

PwC Forecasts Record RE Inv’t in Spain This Year

17 May 2018 – Expansión

The real estate market in Spain is striding towards a new investment record. That is according to the partner responsible for this area at the consultancy firm PwC, Rafael Bou, speaking yesterday at the presentation of a report about trends in the real estate market in Europe – he highlighted that the best international scenario favours the arrival of new projects.

Bou affirmed that there is “widespread optimism” amongst the main players in the sector. “Even 2017, with Brexit and Trump, was a year of record investment, and so 2018 ought to be even better, given that we do not have any of that”, he said. In this sense, he also indicated that there is greater political stability in Europe following the elections in France and Germany,

Another factor that will favour the achievement of this investment record is that the European Central Bank (ECB) is going to maintain interest rates low. Bou confirmed that the uncertainty hanging over the sector is not knowing when the current expansive cycle will end; he put a date on the horizon. “Next year, the uncertainty in this regard may increase with the appointment of a new Chairman of the ECB”.

Madrid, the fifth most attractive city

PwC’s survey, compiled in collaboration with the Urban Land Institute, places Madrid as the fifth-ranked European city for conducting real estate business. If we look at the small print, the Spanish capital is ranked in sixth place in terms of the development of projects and in fifth place for the capture of investment.

The research confirms that significant growth is expected in the capital’s office rentals. “Compared to other European capitals to the north, the growth in rental prices has been restricted by the setback that the Spanish economy suffered following the global financial crisis”, he said. PwC highlights the evolution of the retail and hotel sectors, and the repositioning of offices. Madrid has risen four places in the ranking with respect to last year.

Barcelona, which has risen by five places, is now ranked in eleventh place overall. The Catalan city was ranked in thirteenth place in terms of investment and in ninth place for the development of real estate projects.

The report indicates that Barcelona is one of the cities that could most benefit as a result of Brexit, although it warns of the dangers of secessionism. The analysis highlights that the retail, office and residential sectors are currently at a critical point. So too is logistics. “Boosted by demand from e-commerce companies, investors and property developers are buying logistics warehouses and developing new spaces in Barcelona in a speculative way, for the first time since the global economic crisis”, according to the report. “Some people are now talking about a price bubble in the logistics sector in light of the boom that it is experiencing”, added Bou.

The 800 surveys that have been used to compile the study were conducted prior to 1 October 2017, and so they do not reflect the impact on the real estate sector of the political crisis resulting from the Cataluña-independence process. “Having overcome the initial shock, investment has been recovering gradually”, explained Bou. Most overseas investors have returned. “Some people have decided not to invest, but others saw an opportunity in terms of prices and competition and came back quickly”, he said.

Would Barcelona and Madrid have occupied similar positions in the ranking if the surveys had been carried out after 1-O (1 October 2017)? Bou highlighted that Madrid is always ranked higher than the Catalan capital because it is a larger city.

Original story: Expansión (by Gabriel Trindade)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Bank of Spain: Real Estate Loans Account for 40% of All New Lending

3 May 2018 – El Confidencial

The Spanish economy is returning to its roots. New real estate loans granted to households, in other words, lending that does not include the renegotiation of existing loans, is now growing at an annual rate of 17.4%. In total, such lending amounted to €36.5 billion in 2017.

And this is not a one-off blip. So far this year, although the rate of growth has softened, it still rose by 11.1% during the first quarter compared to the same period last year. That explains how real estate loans now account for 37.4% of all lending that households requested in 2017, which amounted to €97.5 billion in total.

Those €36.5 billion that were used to buy properties exceeded the amount spent on the purchase of consumer goods (€29.1 billion) and the amount that was financed through credit cards (€13.3 billion), whose growth was very significant.

Paradoxically, the most expensive financing – financial institutions apply significantly higher interest rates when consumer acquire goods using credit cards – grew by 20.3%. Therefore, by five times more than the increase in nominal GDP (with inflation).

Data from the Bank of Spain leaves no doubt about the recovery in real estate lending boosted by low interest rates, which explains that the number of renegotiations is still very active, although it has decreased with respect to two years ago, when many households changed the conditions of their loans to benefit from the European Central Bank (ECB)’s ultra-expansive monetary policy.

Specifically, between 2015 and 2017, Spanish households renegotiated loans amounting to almost €18.0 billion, which allowed them to benefit from the extraordinary monetary conditions. In fact, 1-year Euribor remains at -0.1890%, which has encouraged increasingly more households to opt for fixed-rate mortgages over variable rate products.

The average interest rate on new operations for the acquisition of homes amounted to 2.21% in February, which represented a slight increase of 16 hundredths with respect to the previous month. In any case, these are tremendously favourable real interest rates (with respect to inflation), which boost property sales.

Property bubble

The credit map reflecting the Bank of Spain’s statistics reveals two very different realities. On the one hand, as described, new real estate lending has soared, but on the other hand, the amount granted before 2008, which is when the real estate bubble burst, is continuing to fall very significantly. In other words, families are continuing to repay their loans and, therefore, reduce their indebtedness, but, at the same time, new operations are growing strongly.

A couple of pieces of data reflect this clearly. In 2011, the outstanding loan balance dedicated to real estate activities amounted to €298.8 billion, but by the fourth quarter of 2017, that quantity had decreased to €110.0 billion (…).

The importance of the real estate sector in the Spanish economy is key. And, in fact, the double recession was very closely linked to demand for housing, which fell by no less than 60% between 2007 and 2013. In particular, due to the drag effect on the other components of private consumption (…).

The data on real estate lending are logically consistent with those offered by Spain’s National Institute of Statistics (INE) on the constitution of mortgages, which reflect an increase of 13.8% in February (the most recent month for which data is available) compared to a year earlier. In total, 27,945 mortgages, with an average loan value of €119,708, were granted (…).

Original story: El Confidencial (by Carlos Sánchez)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Bankia, BBVA & Abanca At War with Sareb for “Breach of Contract”

30 January 2018 – El Independiente

Bankia, BBVA and Abanca are at war with Sareb. The three entities are not willing to sacrifice their own results just because the bonds issued by the ‘bad bank’, which they received as payment for the real estate assets that they transferred to it, are now generating a negative return when, according to the conditions established, the coupon should not have been allowed to fall below 0%.

The conflict is in the middle of an arbitration process to determine whether the banks will be forced to accept that Sareb has decided to change the price of those bonds, explain sources familiar with the negotiations, speaking to El Independiente. The affected entities accuse “Sareb of a breach of contract”.

Sareb was created to take on 200,000 financial and real estate assets from the banks in exchange for which it issued €50.781 billion in 1-, 2- and 3-year bonds, which are renewed each time they mature. The interest rate on those bonds comprises two variable components: the 3-month euribor rate – which is currently trading at -0.32% – and the Treasury interest rate over the term in question. On the secondary market, that interest rate currently amounts to -0.43%, -0.21% and 0.03% for one, two and three years, respectively.

Of the €50.781 billion issued, Bankia granted the company assets worth €22.317 billion, Catalunya Bank – now absorbed by BBVA – contributed €6.708 billion and Novagalicia – which now belongs to the Venezuelan group Abanca – just over €5.0 billion.

Officially, the bonds were issued with a coupon that included a floor clause to prevent the interest rate from being negative depending on the conditions in the market. That floor had its own raison d’etre: so that the securities could be used by the entities to approach the ECB to request liquidity, given that, until last year, the bonds had to trade with positive coupons in order to be discounted by the central bank.

Nevertheless, a regulatory change in the middle of 2017 means that the banks can now use this debt as collateral even when those coupons are negative. This argument is enabling Sareb to refuse to maintain the floor clause that kept the coupons at 0%. And Bankia, BBVA and Abanca are not willing to assume that cost.

An executive familiar with the conflict explains it like this: “Sareb agreed that,  in exchange for the real estate assets that the banks transferred to it at the end of 2012, it would pay them a specific amount, not in cash but in bonds. Now it says that it is going to pay less and so, naturally, the banks need to defend their interests and those of their shareholders”.

Of the more than €50 billion in Sareb bonds issued to pay for the 200,000 real estate assets – 80% in loans and credits to property developers and 20% in properties – which nine entities transferred to it, the outstanding balance now amounts to €37.9 billion. In this way, the company has repaid almost €13 billion. Moreover, it has also paid interest on that debt of almost €2.8 billion.

Original story: El Independiente (by Ana Antón and Pablo García)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Greece to Auction Liened Properties to Qualify for Eurogroup’s Latest Tranche

23 January 2018

Despite the good news coming from the Eurogroup meeting, which saw the conclusion of a political agreement to release the fourth tranche of the European Stability Mechanism program, 2018 will be another year of austerity in Greece. The Greek government still needs to implement additional measures which are likely to affect the middle class particularly badly.

The Eurogroup’s political agreement to release a €6.7 billion tranche for Greece will imply further austerity measures. Despite complimenting the Greek government’s policies, and the fact that some targets have not only been met but exceeded, Greece will have to increase its austerity measures, which will fall heavily upon a middle class which has already been hit before.

According to a document containing the Eurogroup’s new demands on Athens, which was reviewed by the Greek newspaper To Vima, the Greek state will have to move ahead with the sale of 10,000 real estate assets later this year and to auction a further 40,000 properties between 2019 and 2021.

According to To Vima, this requirement will inevitably lead to the sale of the primary residences of many families whose mortgages have gone into arrears, which would very likely trigger a wave of social dissent, as the middle class will be especially hard hit.

This Monday, Mario Centeno’s debut as the president of the Eurogroup, Eurozone finance ministers agreed at a political level to unblock part of the fourth tranche of the Greek financial assistance program agreed upon in the summer of 2015.  Total lending under the program could reach 86 billion euros.

However, the release of 1 billion is conditional on the pursuit of “prior actions” that will have to be applied “urgently,” the Eurogroup wrote in the final communiqué following yesterday’s meeting.

After the eurozone’s ministers gave the green light, the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) will also have to review the third periodic evaluation of Athens’ compliance with the Greek memorandum.

The first €5.7-billion tranche could then be released in February, an amount to be used for debt servicing, the payment of debts to suppliers that are currently in arrears and to create a buffer to boost Greece’s cash reserves. This last is considered to be the most critical, as it would aid in Greece’s ability to tap financial markets.

The remaining €1 billion could be released in spring by the European Stability Mechanism, and its German managing director, Klaus Regling, after European institutions confirm compliance with the new measures.

Higher Levels of IRS and VAT on exempt islands

In addition to the need to auction off real estate tied to non-performing loans, the Greek authorities will also have to bring forward a reduction (to 2019, initially planned for 2020) of the minimum level at which Greek taxpayers are subject to income taxes, from around an annual income of 8,700 euros to €5,700. However, this measure will only have to be implemented if the country fails to meet the primary budget surplus target of 3.5% of GDP.

Also, according to the document that To Vima reviewed, in the coming months, Alexis Tsipras’ government will be required to move ahead with a new wave of privatizations aimed at raising a billion euros in revenues. It would also have to impose a further increase in the VAT charged on Greek islands that have so far benefited from a temporary exemption/rebate.

The three-year program is set to expire on August 20 of this year, and between the third review, which is still ongoing, and the fourth review of Greece’s compliance with the memorandum, Athens will also have to implement 88 new measures linked to structural reforms that are being demanded by the troika.

European leaders confident of a happy end to Greece’s troubles

“We have reached a political agreement on the review, an agreement that reflects the enormous effort and cooperation between the Greek government and the [troika’s] institutions,” the Portuguese ex-minister of Finance, Mário Centeno said in Brussels yesterday.

In the statement, the Eurogroup underscored the Greek government’s commitment to reach a surplus of 3.5% in its Budget for 2018 and highlighted the capacity of the Tsipras-led team to exceed the fiscal targets set for the previous three years. It highlighted the improvements in the capacity of the Greek government’s ability to collect taxes and the improved business environment.

In addition to the progress made by Athens, which was highlighted by Centeno and Regling, Spain’s Economy Minister Luis de Guindos said Tuesday that he was sure that the third revision would merit a validation by the ESM. Germany’s Finance Minister Peter Altmaier said he did not see any need for a fourth assistance program for Greece once the current one is completed.

So far, the ESM – responsible for implementing the Greek memorandum – has already disbursed €40.2 billion for Greece. Athens made early repayments of €2 billion. Of the €86 billion rescue, €45.8 billion remains to be disbursed, part of which is earmarked for after the memorandum of understanding’s last revision.

Original Story: Jornal de Negócios – David Santiago

Translation: Richard Turner

 

26 Spanish Real Estate Experts Share Their Predictions for 2018

6 January 2018 – Expansión

House prices will rise by more than 5% on average this year, with increases of more than 10% in the large cities. These gains will happen in a context of great dynamism in the market, in which house sales will grow by more than 10% to exceed 550,000 transactions. Rental prices will also continue to rise.

Those are just some of the predictions made by 26 real estate experts for Expansión.

Aguirre Newman: “House prices will grow by more than 10% in Madrid and Barcelona”.

“In our opinion, house prices are going to continue to rise in 2018, reaching average growth rates of 6%-7%”, says Juan Riestra (pictured above, top row, second from left), Director of the Residential Area at Aguirre Newman. “In Madrid, Barcelona and the coastal cities, we expect to see double-digit growth, driven by the supply of new homes that the property developers have announced, which will result in an even more intense increase in prices than seen in 2017 since new build home are typically more expensive than second-hand properties”, he adds (…).

Fotocasa: “New build homes will have a higher profile in 2018”.

“New build homes will have a higher profile in 2018, as we have already seen during the last quarter of 2017. And that, combined with the return of confidence to the housing market, will continue to push prices up if the economic context is maintained and the situation in Cataluña is resolved”, says Beatriz Toribio (pictured above, bottom row, second from left), from Fotocasa, who thinks that this effect will drive up house prices by more than 5%, but not reaching double-digits (…).

Universitat Pompreu Fabra: “Everything depends on the situation in Cataluña”.

“The upward momentum in the market will be accentuated in 2018 due to the improvement in the new build market since the homes that started to be built two years ago are now being sold”, said José García Montalvo (pictured above, top row, second from right), Professor of Economics at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra. “The major change is that new homes now account for 20% of the market, whilst before they represented 60%” (…). But “everything depends on the political uncertainty in Cataluña” (…).

Arcano: “Demand for investment in housing will continue to grow”.

“There is still a very significant imbalance in terms of demand, spurred on by the ECB’s policy and labour improvement, and a supply that is still restricted by the very low level of new house starts. Moreover, demand for housing as an investment will continue to grow. In this context, prices will rise by more than 5%”, says Ignacio de la Torre, Chief Economist at Arcano (…).

Notaries’ Centre for Statistical Information: “We expect house prices to increase by more than 5%”.

“On the basis of our analysis of the available information, we expect house prices to grow by between 5% and 10% in 2018 (…). Although we expect the housing stock to increase, due to greater investment and employment in construction in recent months, which may lead to price rises being contained, we also expect an increase in demand, given the dynamism of economic activity and the behaviour observed in the labour market”, says Milagros Avedillo, at the Notaries’ Centre for Statistical Information. In her opinion, the growth in mortgage loans will be single-digit.

Asprima: “Very few new homes will be built”.

“I don’t think that the volume of transactions will increase by more than 10% and the forecast for price growth will be below 5%”, says Carolina Roca, Vice-President of Asprima. “The most important macro-factor is income”, she laments. Therefore, prices cannot rise by much, in her opinion, although they will increase in certain areas. “New builds will recover in 2018, but not by much (…)”.

Tinsa: “The reduction in the unemployment rate will boost the market”.

“The residential market will record moderate price growth in 2018 (of between 3% and 4%), similar to that seen in 2017, with different speeds, depending on the region”, says Pedro Soria (pictured above, bottom row, second from right), Commercial Director at the appraisal company Tinsa. “The recovery will expand to more areas; the large capitals will continue to be the drivers, although the rate of growth will soften”, he adds. “The reduction in the unemployment rate and continuing investor interest, due to the prolongation of the low-interest rates, will increase house sales by between 10% and 15% (…).

Sociedad de Tasación: “New house prices will rise by 5.4%”.

“Applying our predictive model to the data from the Ministry of Development, we estimate that 14.1% more house sales will be completed in 2018 than in 2017 (…)”, says Consuelo Villanueva (pictured above, top row, far left), Director of Institutions and Key Accounts at Sociedad de Tasación. “The result (…) indicates growth of 5.4% in the price of new homes under construction for the average of provincial capitals in 2018 (…)”.

Gesvalt: “Mortgage lending will rise by around 15%”.

“According to the forecasts at Gesvalt, we predict moderate growth in second-hand house prices of around 5% at the national level, although there will be notable differences between provinces”, says Sandra Daza (pictured above, bottom row, far right), Director General at Gesvalt. (…). And by how much will mortgage lending grow? “By around 15% and there will be a slight increase in the number of mortgages that exceed 80% of the total property value”.

Foundation of Real Estate Research: “The political uncertainty will weigh down on Barcelona”.

The President of the Foundation of Real Estate Research, Julio Gil, believes that house prices will rise by “between 0% and 5% in 2018. “We will move to a three-speed market”, he thinks, referring to consolidated areas, cities in recovery and provinces with a surplus supply and/or limited demand. “And I think that Barcelona will perform less well than Madrid, weighed down by the political uncertainty”, he adds (…).

Pisos.com. “Mortgage lending will rise by more than 10% for the fourth consecutive year”.

According to Ferran Font, Head of Research at Pisos.com (…) “Historically low interest rates and the decrease in unemployment mean that we expect mortgage lending to grow at double-digit rates in 2018, like it has done for the last three years”.

General Council of Real Estate Agents: “The rise in rents will lead to tension in sales prices”.

“House prices will grow by around 5% in 2018, driven more by the refuge effect of savings than by objective economic variables”, says the President of the General Council of Real Estate Agents, Diego Galiano. “Savings are not being rewards and housing is recovering a certain degree of stability and offering good prospects for investors (…)”.

TecniTasa: “Prices will grow by around 5%”.

“On average in Spain, we estimate price growth of around 5%, but we highlight that that figure represents an average of a very heterogeneous market, by area and asset class. In some regions and for certain types of high-end homes, the increase will amount to between 5% and 10%, and may even exceed 10% (for example, in the Balearic Islands). Whilst in small towns and for cheaper homes, prices are barely expected to rise at all in 2018”, says José María Basáñez, President of TecniTasa (…).

Civislend: “The mortgage war will intensify”.

“The growth that we will see in terms of mortgage lending is going to continue to reflect double-digit rates and the war in terms of granting loans by financial institutions is going to intensify”, says Manuel Gandarias, Director and Founder of the real estate crowdlending platform Civislend (…).

Acuña & Asociados: “80% of sales will be made in 400 towns”.

“Given the current situation, the expected growth in prices at the national level for 2018 will amount to around 5.5%”, forecasts Luis Rodríguez de Acuña. However, “demand for housing is not behaving in a homogenous way across the country, and transactions are only being recorded in 1,300 of Spain’s 8,125 municipalities”. In other words, in one out of every six. And 80% of transactions “are being closed in just 400 municipalities (…)”. (…).

CBRE: “The sale of new homes will continue to gain weight”.

The value of homes will increase “by around 5% YoY at the national level, with higher rises (between 7% and 10%) in certain markets such as Madrid, Valencia, Málaga and the Balearic Islands”, predicts Samuel Población (pictured above, top row, far right), National Director of Residential and Land at CBRE (…). “Sales of new build homes are going to increase their relative weight (with respect to second-hand homes) as a result of the recovery in construction output; nevertheless, the recovery will not have an immediate impact on transaction volumes given the time lag associated with new build developments”, he says.

BDO: The land market is preventing soaring construction output”.

“We are facing a very favourable macro context (GDP and employment, above all) and therefore, an upwards cycle is likely, which will have different regional rates”, explains Alberto Prieto, at BDO. (…). “The launch of new build projects by the new large players will start to be felt in 2018, and then more intensely in 2019”, he adds. “The situation in the land market makes it unfeasible for the volume of new build homes to soar for the time being”, he says.

Foro Consultores Inmobiliarios: “Fixed-rate mortgages will play an important role”.

Carlos Smerdou, CEO at Foro Consultores, believes that “new build homes will drive the market and that recent land transactions indicate that the trend in terms of prices will be upward, of between 5% and 10%” (…). In terms of fixed-rate mortgages, “they will play an important role”, despite the fact that “interest rates are forecast to remain negative”.

MAR Real Estate: “Banks are still reluctant to grant the necessary financing”.

Rosario Martín Jerónimo, representative of MAR Real Estate in Marbella, believes that house prices will grow by more than 5% in Spain this year, on average (…). Nevertheless, she does not think that sales or mortgage lending will be as high in 2018 as they were in 2017 and that the growth rates will remain below 10% in both cases. “Buyers are willing but the financial institutions are still very reluctant to grant the necessary financing”, she explains. “Many property developers are completely financing their projects using money from private investors/buyers, without any support from the bank”, she says (…).

uDA (urban Data Analytics); “Prices will rise by more than 10% in the large cities”.

“House prices will rise by around 6.9% in 2018, although the behaviour will be tremendously heterogeneous”, warns Carlos Olmos, Director of urban Data Analytics. In other words, there will be “some large cities with growth rates of more than 10% and many other capitals with small decreases” (…).

Gonzalo Bernardos, Professor of Economic: “House prices will rise by 11% and sales volumes by 23%”.

“I think that house prices will rise by 11%”, says Gonzalo Bernardos, Director of the Real Estate Masters at the Universidad de Barcelona (…). Moreover, in macroeconomic terms, it is the best scenario for the residential market: high (economic) growth (around 3%), the creation of employment, scarce new build supply (new build permits will amount to 125,000 in 2018), very low interest rates and bank willingness to grant mortgages”. “House sales will rise by around 23% and mortgage lending will increase by 17%”.

Irea: “House prices will rise by more than 7% in consolidated markets”.

Mikel Echavarren (pictured above, bottom row, far left), CEO of the real estate consultancy and advisory firm Irea, forecasts that house prices will rise by between 5% and 10% in 2018 with respect to 2017. “In consolidated markets, the increases will be closer to 7%”. (…). In the mortgage market (…), “in theory, financing conditions will continue to be very beneficial for buyers and property developers”, he adds.

College of Registrars: “Mortgage lending will grow by around 20%”.

The registrars believe that house prices will rise by less than 5%. “Taking into account our data and the slowdown that is already being seen in Cataluña, which accounts for approximately 17%-18% of the Spanish housing market (…), we think that it will be hard to exceed a growth rate of 5% in 2018”, explains Fernando Acedo Rico, Director of Institutional Relations at the College of Registrars. (…). Something similar will happen with mortgage lending, which “will continue to grow at around 20%”.

Idealista.com: “Madrid will drive the price rises”.

According to Fernando Encinar, Head of Research at the real estate portal Idealista, house prices will rise by less than 5%. (…). “There will be cities that will experience a more acute recovery, such as Málaga, Valencia, Sevilla and the islands. But I think that Madrid is going to be the real driver, with even more accelerated price growth”. Why? “The Spanish capital is gobbling up talent and investment, and demand there indicates that prices are going to continue to rise. There is minimal stock left in Madrid (…)”.

Instituto de Práctica Empresarial: “In 2018, 550,000 homes will be sold in Spain”.

According to the Director of the Real Estate Chair of the Instituto de Práctica Empresarial, house prices will rise by 6.1% in 2018 (…). In Spain, 550,374 homes will be sold, which represents 14.5% more than in 2017, despite the sluggishness that may be seen in Cataluña.

Invermax: “Tourist areas may see price rises of 10%”.

Jesús Martí, Real Estate Analyst at Invermax, thinks that “house prices will grow by another 5%, with this average varying between the large cities and the traditionally touristy coastal areas, where they may rise by 10%”. “It is still a good time to buy a home, especially for investors”, he adds (…).

Original story: Expansión (by Juanma Lamet)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Cerberus Gets its Cheque Book out again to Buy NPLs from CaixaBank

4 December 2017 – Voz Pópuli

Cerberus is stepping on the accelerator in Spain. The US fund has starred in another major operation just days after acquiring a real estate portfolio from BBVA. One of Cerberus’s subsidiaries, Gescobro, has won an auction for €0.8 billion in non-performing loans and real estate from CaixaBank.

The fund has purchased part of that portfolio, known as Project Egeo, whilst the Norwegian group Lindorff has bought the rest, according to financial sources consulted by this newspaper.

Part (€0.5 billion – €0.6 billion) of this €0.8 billion portfolio comprises unsecured loans (credit cards, personal loans and others without any guarantee) and just over €0.2 billion relates to loans to SMEs secured by real estate.

This is Cerberus’s fourth operation in the Spanish financial and real estate sector in 2017 following the acquisition of Project Jaipur from BBVA (€0.6 billion in non-performing property developer loans; the purchase of the real estate arm of Liberbank, Mihabitans, for €85 million; and the acquisition of €13 billion in property from BBVA for €4 billion.

Strategic fit

The sale of Project Egeo, which is still pending the completion of the necessary paperwork, forms part of the routine divestment plans of the Catalan group. In this way, it is managing and controlling its default rate and complying with the regulatory requirements of the European Central Bank (ECB).

Currently, the group’s default rate stands at 6.4%, after falling by seven tenths in the last year. In total, its doubtful loans amount to €15.3 billion, of which €13.9 billion are in Spain. It has another €7.2 billion in foreclosed assets.

The firm that has won the auction, Gescobro, has been led by Iheb Nafaa until now, but he was recently poached by Servihabitat, the real estate company owned by TPG (51%) and CaixaBank (49%).

Meanwhile, Lindorff has been one of the main competitors in the bank debt market since 2012. More than a year ago, it expanded its real estate business with the purchase of Aktua, the former real estate arm of Banesto; and it strengthened its business through a merger with Intrum Justicia.

Original story: Voz Pópuli (by Jorge Zuloaga)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Spain’s Banking Sector Fears ECB Stress Tests

27 November 2017 – Voz Pópuli

Spain’s banks are facing a new perfect storm, albeit on paper. In an already difficult scenario in which the financial institutions are having to adapt to the new provisioning requirements (IFRS 9), they are also having to deal with the upcoming stress tests that are being prepared for 2018.

If we take an analogy by way of example – what is happening in the banking sector is equivalent to what would happen to a student if a decision was taken to change the language of his/her class and then a few months later force him/her to take an entrance exam in that new language. The entities have gone to the wire to try and persuade the authorities to examine them in their native language (based on their current provisions) but the European Banking Authority (EBA) and the ECB have outright refused.

The new provisions mean a radical change in the model. Until now, the banks recognise losses when their loans are impaired, in other words, when non-payments begin. Under the new system, the banks will have to anticipate advance signs of impairment.

A report from the consultancy firm Alvarez & Marsal estimates that the potential impact of the new IFRS 9 provisions on the stress tests is 465 basis points. More than half of that amount will come about in the first of the three years covered by the exercise, which reflects that from now on, crises are going to hit banks faster.

Impact

If we apply these calculations to the latest official figures from the sector (published on Friday as part of the EBA’s transparency exercise), the result in the loss of one-third of the regulatory capital (CET 1). Even so, they are stress test scenarios and so will not necessarily happen.

KutxaBank and Bankia were the entities with the largest buffers in the last year of transparency, with more than 14% of capital, although the group chaired by José Ignacio Gorigiolzarri will see its figure reduce once it completes its takeover of BMN. They are followed in the ranking by Unicaja, Abanca, Sabadell and Liberbank.

Another finding from the data published as part of the transparency exercise is that Spain’s banks have moved away from those of other peripheral countries (Portugal, Italy, Ireland and Greece) in terms of delinquency.

Original story: Voz Pópuli (by Jorge Zuloaga)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Spain’s Banks Sell RE Assets Worth €52,000M+ In 2017

2 November 2017 – Cinco Días

According to all of the experts consulted, there is no doubt that the operation carried out by Santander in August, involving the sale of €30,000 million in property to Blackstone, marked a before and after in the formula for the financial sector to get rid of its real estate deadweight.

That operation significantly boosted the total amount transacted in these types of portfolio sale operations this year. Taking into account those operations that already have been closed, as well as those that are currently underway, the transaction volume in 2017 will comfortably exceed €52,000 million. That figure contrasts with the volume recorded in 2016 (€22,000 million), even though this year (2017) was expected to be more modest in terms of transactions.

The new international accounting standard IFRS 9, which will enter into force in January, and which will toughen provisions for real estate portfolios, as well as the pressure from the Bank of Spain and, above all, the European Central Bank (ECB) for the sector to accelerate the sale of its NPL assets, have served as a trigger for the banks to accelerate the sale of their foreclosed land and properties.

The heads of Spain’s largest banks (Santander, BBVA, CaixaBank, Bankia and Sabadell) have said, during the recent presentations of their results for the first nine months of the year, that their objective is that property will no longer weigh down on their income statements by the end of 2018 and, in some cases, by a year later, at most (…).

By way of example, Bankia has two very different financial operations underway, but international funds are the interested investors in both cases. One involves the upcoming sale of between 7% and 9% of the entity’s share capital, a placement that is expected to be carried out during the month of November and whose buyers will be institutional investors.

The other operation will involve the sale of several real estate portfolios. One of those, for €100 million, goes by the name Jets; and another, amounting to almost €2,000 million, is known as Giant, comprises property from Bankia’s own balance sheet and maybe some from BMN, the entity that it will integrate into its perimeter at the end of the year (…).

CaixaBank, with around €18,000 million in at-risk assets, of which €10,000 million are NPLs, may also star in a similar operation to the deal closed by Santander with Blackstone within the next few months, according to two experts.

For the time being, all of the consultancy firms and investment banks agree that (with the exception of the sales processes already underway) the trend is to carry out much fewer placements of small portfolios and “to undertake a few, large sales instead”.

These same sources also agree that the investment funds (Apollo, Oaktree, Bain, Cerberus, Blackstone, Lone Star, Castlelake, Värde Partners, Lindorff, TPG and Goldman Sachs, amongst the most active) “are in a hurry to buy and the banks are in a hurry to sell”.

One of the large banks that has shown reluctance to sell its real estate assets until now, despite its bulky portfolio of foreclosed assets, has been BBVA. It has carried out some operations (refer to the table above) but it has been, together with Sabadell, the only entity that has not sold its real estate platform.

Nevertheless, the bank chaired by Francisco González has been holding exclusive negotiations with Cerberus for months regarding the sale of part of Anida (in an operation known as Sena). Specifically, it is interested in 20% of Anida Grupo Inmobiliario SL, which is equivalent to around €1,200 million, an operation for which it would pay approximately €300 million.

But several sources say that the bank is rethinking its sales strategy and in 2018, will be willing to put a much larger portfolio up for sale and whereby tackle an operation similar to the one closed by Santander, but this time with Anida as the protagonist.

Sources at investment banks and managers add that the upcoming regulatory changes affecting securitisations in Europe will also help to boost the sale of packages of property portfolios amongst investors (…).

Original story: Cinco Días (by Ángeles Gonzalo Alconada)

Translation: Carmel Drake