INE: House Sale Growth Slows Down In Cataluña

14 November 2017 – Expansión

The negative consequences of the crisis caused by the “independentistas” extends to every sector of the economy. And one of the most affected is the real estate sector, as the data published on Monday by Spain’s National Institute of Statistics (INE) shows. Cataluña was the third autonomous region where house sales grew by the least during the month of September, with a YoY increase of 2.1%, equivalent to 6,146 operations.

With that percentage, Cataluña fell well below the average YoY growth rate for Spain as a whole, which amounted to 11% in September. That increase – below the rate recorded in August, of 16% – was driven by Castilla-La Mancha (47%), Murcia (27%) and Extremadura (24.2%), which experienced the highest rises. Unlike Cataluña, the other economically powerful regions, such as Madrid (11.4%), Valencia (13.2%) and País Vasco (13.3%), were above the national average.

This data partially reflects the impact of the events that took place in September, with the approval by the Parlament of the so-called disconnection laws. But given that most operations are negotiated several weeks in advance, Manuel Gandarias, CEO of Civislend, indicates that the deceleration was due primarily to “expectations” – many people postponed their purchases as a precaution, in case the situation deteriorated, which is what ended up happening.

This explains why Cataluña has gone from being one of the drivers of house sales in Spain to bringing up the rear of the ranking. In this way, in May, the region came in above the national average, with an increase of more than 30%. In June and July, the first signs of the deterioration could be seen, when the rate stood at around 17%, broadly in line with the rest of the country. But in August, it decreased below the national average (7.4% vs. 16%), and that decrease was further strengthened by the data published yesterday. In absolute terms, it means 6,720 operations were recorded in August, 7,020 in July and 7,039 in June; in contrast with 6,146 in September (…).

The growth recorded in Cataluña during the month of September was distributed unequally by province (…). The worst hit was Girona, which saw house sales decrease by -2.9% in September. Barcelona and Tarragona saw very limited rates of growth, with 1.9% and 4%, respectively, whilst the best figures were seen in Lleida, with a rise in house sales of 16.3% (…).

The negative trend indicated by this data will probably be made worse when the indicators relating to the next few months are revealed, as they will reflect the impact of the events that took place after the illegal referendum on 1 October. According to José Antonio Pérez, Professor of the Real Estate Department at IPE, the greatest effect is being felt “in investments from overseas”, which have reacted in the face of the legal uncertainty. Gandarias said that the situation will also have its impact on operations involving families, given that those who have decided to buy a home “will probably wait now until after the (regional) elections”.

The “independentista” crisis is also affecting property prices. According to a report published last week by Fotocasa, the price of housing in Cataluña slowed down its rate of growth from 10.6% in September to 6.1% in October.

Original story: Expansión (by Ignacio Bolea)

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

Rental Prices Will Rise On La Castellana After The Summer

6 July 2016 – Expansión

Madrid’s financial district is refreshing its image and prices are set to rise in the area after the summer. The Spanish capital’s La Castellana thoroughfare is aiming to attract tenants who are willing to prioritise the quality of space over rental costs.

Whilst investors remain attentive to the course of events unfolding in the City (London), following Brexit’s victory in the EU referendum held on 23 June, and the formation of a new Government in Spain after the election on 26 June, business is continuing as usual and the capital’s financial district is getting ready to open its doors to some new tenants. Some of the countries in the Eurozone may, over time, attract some of the activity that has been performed in the United Kingdom until now, and if this becomes a reality, Madrid’s financial district could represent a good option for companies currently headquartered in London.

Torre Europa is preparing itself to this end. Grupo Infinorsa has launched a process to renovate the property following KPMG’s departure and will allocate €20 million to the modernisation of its facilities. In the same way, GMP is in the middle of renovating the Castellana 77 skyscraper, known as Torre Ederra – the former headquarters of Saint Gobain – as well as Castellana 81 – Torre BBVA – to adapt them both to the new demands of the market. Another building that is looking for new tenants is Torre Picasso following EY’s move to Torre Titania. (…).

Sources at Cushman & Wakefield explain that demand is not growing in Madrid at the moment. “GDP levels are similar to during the years before the crisis, and so around 200,000 sqm of space is being leased out per year. The main explanation is uncertainty”. Moreover, it seems like the slowdown is more acute in the financial district, due to the quality of available stock and the cost. (…).

José Miguel Setién, Director of the Office Business at JLL, explains that renting in Madrid has been cheap until now and the price ratio is still very attractive when compared with other major European cities; this means that there is still a lot of potential in the Spanish capital. “Provided there are no political or structural macroeconomic problems, the figure trend is that the market will continue to rise”, he added.

The CEO of Aguirre Newman, Jaime Pascual-Sanchiz de la Serna, explained that offices in prime areas, as well as in the market in general, have been very static in terms of renovations and new projects. Pascual-Sanchiz says that several projects launched within the last 12 months will come onto the market within the next year. In his opinion, they will be a good indicator for measuring the evolution of offices. “The owners of those properties, including Pontegadea, Mutua Madrileña and the Consorcio de Compensación de Seguros do not have financial problems, and are not desperate to lease their properties at any price”. For the expert, although we are seeing small and medium-sized operations in the area, the large moves, which are more dependent on the domestic and international political situation, will have to be unblocked after the summer.

Original story: Expansión (by Rebeca Arroyo)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Sabadell & Bankia Finalise RE Portfolio Sales To Sankaty

29 June 2016 – Expansión

Spanish banks and international funds are negotiating against the clock as they seek to close operations worth hundreds of millions of euros within the next few days. Entities have offers on the table for real estate assets worth almost €4,000 million. And some of them are expected to bear fruit today or tomorrow, so that they can be accounted for in the half-year results.

The negotiations are even more frantic than in previous years due to the slowdown caused by the electoral calendar, which caused opportunistic funds to be prudent with their offers. One of the most influential factors was the fear that Podemos would enjoy electoral success.

Now that the uncertainty (surrounding Podemos) has been resolved, Sabadell and Bankia have been particularly agile in reaching agreements.

Yesterday, the Catalan entity sold a portfolio containing €460 million of problem assets linked to property developers, as part of Project Pirene. The buyer is the fund Sankaty Advisors, a subsidiary of the US giant Bain Capital. Sources in the market estimate that the investor paid Sabadell between €150 and €200 million for these assets.

Dominant investors

Sankaty’s interest in Spain has not been limited to that portfolio, given that it is close to securing another deal that has attracted significant interest from other large international investors: Project Lane, sold by Bankia, comprising 2,500 homes worth €400 million. This is the first portfolio to emerge from the carved up Project Big Bang; the entity had wanted to sell all of its foreclosed assets together, but that plan was suspended at the end of last year. Sources expect to know whether this operation will go ahead within the next few days.

The sale of the other two asset portfolios that Bankia has on the market are proceeding more slowly: one contains non-performing mortgages – Project Tizona – worth €520 million; and the other contains non-performing property developer loans – Project Ocean – amounting to €400 million.

Sankaty expects the recovery of the Spanish real estate sector to go beyond Sabadell and Bankia’s portfolios, as indicated by the fact that it is one of the main favourites to acquire Project Baracoa, from Cajamar. That will be the first sale of bankrupt loans by a Spanish bank. In total, the rural savings bank is looking to get rid of €800 million of these types of loans, which account for 70% of all of its bankrupt assets. 85% of them are secured by real estate collateral.

Another operation that is generating significant interest is Project Carlit, launched by CaixaBank, through which the Catalan group wants to transfer €790 million of doubtful loans to property developers. The bid is in its final phase with two key favourites in the running: Cerberus, which according to sources consulted is “putting all of its eggs into one basket”; and the alliance between Goldman Sachs and TPG, two US investors who have joined forces in the past. The US fund D. E. Shaw is also through to the final round, but it has not participated in any operations in Spain for a long time and the market considers that it is less likely to win the portfolio.

CaixaBank has another major operation underway: Project Sun, through which it wants to sell 155 hotel assets worth almost €1,000 million.

Another one of the most active entities is Abanca, which recently sold €1,400 million in non-performing loans to EOS Spain and which will be negotiating the sale of €400 million property developer loans over the next few weeks.

Original story: Expansión (by J. Zuloaga)

Translation: Carmel Drake

International Funds Encouraged By Decline In Podemos Support

4 November 2015 – El Confidencial

An air of tranquillity has returned to the offices of the large international funds following the uncertainty that was unleashed on 24 May. Then, the success of groups linked to Podemos in the municipal elections caused many institutional investors to rethink their positions in our country, they slammed on the brakes and chose to move cautiously, as they awaited developments.

This attitude affected the rhythm of several sectors that were enjoying a real boom at the time, including the real estate sector, where large buyers were responsible for driving the recovery. The electoral calendar meant that they had no choice, with the upcoming regional elections in Cataluña (which Junts Pel Sí was trying to hijack as a referendum on independence) and the general elections scheduled for the end of the year, the second half of the year was set to be very quiet. But the latest election polls are changing everything.

The decline of the group led by Pablo Iglesias and the growing expectations surrounding the alliance between PP and Ciudadanos has given the large international funds reason for hope. The results of the opinion polls are showing them that our country’s politics will continue in line with the reforms undertaken in recent years and, above all, that it will not fall into the hands of a leftist coalition involving a Government seeking to resemble the Greek Syriza party.

As one source in the sector explains “now that Podemos is becoming weaker, our concern regarding the country’s political risk has decreased siginficantly – any scenario involving stability is welcome. In other words, the change in the perspective of the international funds has not been driven so much by the rise of PP-Ciudadanos, but rather because the decline in support for Podemos significantly reduces the risk of instability”.

In fact, to say that overseas investors have a preference for one party or another is, in the opinion of the professionals in the sector, completely incorrect. “Investors are not saying ‘I want this party or that party to win’, overseas investment in real estate has been the same under the PSOE and the PP. The good news now is that Ciudadanos is no longer regarded as a risk”.

Several investors specialising in the real estate sector acknowledge that this change of perspective is being felt by the day, a domino effect that has been accelerating with the wave of polls in recent weeks, all of which are marked by the common denominator of the decline of Podemos with respect to the rising trend that started with the European elections and peaked with the municipal elections, and the consolidation of Ciudadanos as the great emerging force.

Tensions continue in Cataluña

(…). The only exception to this rule is Cataluña, “where the separatist tensions mean that there is a great deal of uncertainty”, says one M&A expert. “I have decided to delay any decisions until next year, it only means waiting a few more months. What difference does that make?”.

Just as there is a general feeling of calm amongst the large international investors regarding Spain in general, their views regarding the future of Cataluña are divided. Many are convinced that independence is a utopia that will never actually happen, but there are others that regard it as a credible option, in which case they prefer to wait and see.

The direct consequence of these fears, besides the delay in terms of closing operations, is the downward pressure on the prices of those operations already underway. Similarly, the return of confidence is a revulsive in favour of the vendors, which still have almost two months to reach agreements (before year-end), but now with the factor of economic stability in their favour. Provided that is, that the opinion polls are correct.

Original story: El Confidencial (by Ruth Ugalde)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Election Fallout: Large Investors Rethink Their Strategies For Spain

2 June 2015 – Expansión

Election fallout / International funds are worried about the impact that the new (political) environment will have on their purchases of: social housing, problem mortgages and portfolios of homes from banks.

The rise of Podemos in the municipal and regional elections could clog the bank’s real estate drain once again. After years of provisions and foreclosures, the financial sector had started to sign large transactions in recent months, and whereby reduce the high burden of property on their balance sheets. Transactions worth more than €10,000 million are currently underway. However, some potential investors have begun to rethink their strategies and fully expecting that the projects that are already underway will be affected, at least in terms of price.

(….)

The fears of the larger international funds revolve around what might happen in three specific segments: subsidised social housing (VPO homes), where Blackstone and Goldman Sachs have been very active; the suspension of evictions; and the possibility that new measures will be taken to deal with vacant homes.

Subsidised social housing

Subsidised homes were one of the assets that the funds that first arrived in Spain expressed interest in. Blackstone and Goldman purchased more than 8,000 homes of this kind between 2013 and 2014 from the Community of Madrid, the Town Hall of Madrid, FCC, Sareb and Bankia.

Now, after a couple of years managing these real estate portfolios, the funds fear that the expected arrival of Ahora Madrid in the Town Hall will change the rules of the game and may even cause them to reverse their purchases (i.e. exit their investments) (…).

Mortgage portfolios

The second wave of concerns relates to mortgage portfolios, which were expected to generate a large volume of transactions during 2015. A priori, financial sources indicate that it would be easier if there was no legislative change until the general elections, in case Podemos gains strength as an alternative Government. However, the mere uncertainty in this regard means that funds are going to really take care with the purchase of any portfolio.

Blackstone is again the fund that is most exposed to these assets, since in 2014 it purchased a portfolio of problem mortgages from Catalunya Banc amounting to €6,400 million. This acquisition involved around 50,000 mortgage contracts, of which 57% were overdue or non-performing; and more than half were located in the province of Barcelona, where the possible arrival of BComú – which groups together Podemos, Esquerra Unida and other left-wing parties – generates real real amongst international investors.

Following this transaction, agreed in 2014, Bankia and BMN have put their own problem mortgage portfolios up for sale.

Sources close to the funds explain that eviction is the last resort used for this type of portfolio, and that the main objective is to reduce the debt so that loans become more affordable or “daciones en pago” in exchange for holding onto the home. But, they add, that the legal concept of eviction helps them to put pressure on certain delinquent borrowers, something they would have to stop doing based on the election promises of some of the political parties.

Tax on vacant homes

Given the uncertainty surrounding the general elections, a more immediate fear is the new taxes that local councils in the major regional capital cities may introduce: such as the tax on vacant homes. That would certainly have an effect of some of the loan portfolios that the banks have put on the market in recent months. (…)

Original story: Expansión (by J. Zuloaga)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Political Uncertainty and Populism Threaten RE Recovery

1 June 2015 – El Economista

The electoral success of Manuela Carmena (Ahora Madrid) in Madrid and Ada Colau (Barcelona En Comú) in Barcelona has started to take its first victims in the real estate sector. Barely a week has passed since the elections and “some investors have already suspended deals to purchase property in Spain”, warn certain sources close to the negotiations.

The uncertainty regarding the possible political agreements has hit the property sector hard, “just when it was starting to recover”. In Madrid and Barcelona alone, large urban projects amounting to €14,000 million have already been called into question.

Major construction companies, financial institutions and large international funds are involved in these developments, including the Chinese magnate Wang Jianlin, who came to Spain with plans to invest around €4,000 million and who now see his real estate plans for the country being endangered.

“Right now, the sector is beginning a process of paralysis in certain segments. All of the investors are waiting for the possible political agreements to be settled so that they can carry out transactions”, explain sources in the sector.

“The is a great deal of uncertainty and considerable ungovernability in many cases, as well as expected increases in taxes and public spending, coupled with the suspension of forecast investments, which may result in the withdrawal of foreign capital”, they warn.

This situation may result in “an important step backwards for the emerging recovery”, given that it comes at a time when the real estate sector was really beginning to take off; record levels of investment were recorded last year. Before the elections, experts predicted that the level of transactions was going to continue (this year), but following recent events, “it is now very difficult to make forecasts”. These warnings coincide with others made this week by several important businessmen, such as the Chairman of OHL, Juan Miguel Villar Mir, who said that (political) groups such as Podemos put Spain’s economic recovery in danger. In a similar way, the markets have penalised the election results and the Ibex 35 recorded a loss of 2.91% last week.

(…)

The urban plans proposed by Carmena and Colau leave most of the major projects, both those already underway as well as those still to be awarded, up in the air. In Madrid, they endanger million-euro developments such as Operación Chamartín, the Madrid Río shopping centre, Operación Mahou-Calderón, the Canalejas complex, Operación Edificio España, la Ciudad de Justicia and even Operación Campamento.

Whilst in Barcelona, projects such as La Maquinista and Heron City shopping centres, the refurbishment of the Nou Camp and urban developments in the surrounding area, the ski slope in the free trade zone of Barcelona SnowWorld and the conversion into hotels of iconic buildings such as Torre Agbar, the Deutsche Bank building on Passeig de Gracia or Project Núñez i Navarro are also at risk.

(…)

Original story: El Economista (by Alba Brualla and Javier Mesones)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Socimis: Spain’s Political Uncertainty Is Starting To Affect Investors

29 May 2015 – El Economista

The sector is hoping that the fear will pass and the uncertainty will come to an end soon.

Just two weeks ago, the real estate sector claimed that the emergence of new political parties in Spain would not affect the volume of investment. However, that perception has changed following the recent elections.

The current political uncertainty is palpable and the players in the sector fear that investment in property is stalling. The main Spanish Socimis are already detecting reluctance from investors, based on the views they shared at a forum organised by Deloitte. Moreover, the CEO of Merlín, Ismael Clemente, warned yesterday that companies issuing bonds will do so in poorer conditions from now on.

The fears

According to sources consulted by this newspaper, the sector fears that funds “will suspend the plans they had for Spain until after the general election”, or that they will have a complete change of heart and choose to focus on other markets.

Nevertheless, there is another side to the coin and that is that the funds may play their cards so as to push down prices  in the face of so much “uncertainty”. That is the word that has been repeated time and again in the sector over the last few days, but everyone is hoping that the “fear will soon pass”.

Original story: El Economista (by Alba Brualla)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Election Consequences

26 May 2015 – Expansión

The change of roles in City Councils of Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia have put prominent urban development projects under review. They could either be modified or not even given the green light at all. A fall in investment is not forecast for the sector.

The change of political parties in three of the major Spanish cities – Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia – will entail consequences in terms of one of the most important powers of local Councils: urban development. The more than likely appointment of Manuela Carmena, from Ahora Madrid; Ada Colau, from Barcelona’s Comú; and Joan Ribó, from Compromís in Valencia as heads of their respective councils will bring changes to urban planning policies of the cities, where there are numerous real estate projects of great importance underway.

In the case of Madrid, there are many projects in early stages yet to be approved by the new council. This is the case of District Castellana Norte development project (formerly Operation Chamartin). In the last plenary session, the City Council led by Ana Botella did not approve the “Partial Plan of Interior Refurbishing” affecting the area. The bill, introduced in January with the support of the City Council and the Community of Madrid, plans to invest 6 billion euros in the construction of 17,000 housing units, of which 10% are some type of subsidized social housing.

Back then, the local Executive branch in Madrid, owner of 5.3% of the land in Castellana Norte, pledged to carry out the construction of the “Nudo Norte” and “Nudo Fuencarral”, although the expenses incurred would be borne by Duch, a company owned by BBVA and San Jose. Professionals from the sector believe that “Castellana Norte Project” will succeed, as it situated in a “run-down area,” albeit not in initial phases. The same argument to retrieve a devalued area has been put forward concerning another major development project in Madrid: the “Operación Campamento”. On April 27 this year, the Ministry of Defense announced the start of the sale of 1.55 million square meters that used to house barracks for decades. The land ploss are a favorite location of the Chinese Dalian Wanda Group to promote large-scale development of housing and upmarket leisure area projects. The current urban planning, approved in May 2009, includes more than 530,000 square meters of subsidized housing.

This is not the only project of Dalian Wanda in the capital. Last year, the company of billionaire Wang Jianlin bought Edificio España, located in the heart of Madrid to open a hotel with luxury homes. The project will includes refurbishing the rear facade of the historic building and expanding the parking area about 10,000 square meters, in addition to hiding “underground” the traffic that currently passes in front of building’s door, situated on Plaza de España. It is yet to be annoucned who will bear the cost of the renovation on the Plaza.

Another major urban development project  taking place in Madrid is known as Operation Calderon. It is awaiting authorization from the courts for the construction of several skyscrapers, something the High Court of Justice of Madrid opposes.

Barcelona

In Barcelona, ​​there are also numerous real estate projects that have yet to receive a municipal green light. Some of them should have been approved months ago but public pressure against excessive growth of tourism delayed approval until after the elections. Now, these construction projects will depend on Ada Colau, who has made “putting the brake” on tourism projects part of her election platform.

This is the case of the Deutsche Bank Building, at the crossroad of Paseo de Gracia and Diagonal de Barcelona. It was acquired by investment group KKH for 90 million and awaiting for its demolition to be approved to build a larger hotel. Investors had spoken about a deal with the Four Seasons hotel chain.

The expansion of Zara on Paseo de Gracia has also been delayed. Inditex wanted to build its largest store in the world as a flagship for the brand. On the same avenue, a project to build an  H&M mega-store is also pending.

The new port for luxury boats that the Port Authority of Barcelona wants to build has been approved, although the plan could be changed.

FC Barcelona wanted to expand its football stadium, Camp Nou, although it has yet to present the project and, hence, does not have a municipal building permit.

All projects that  are related to attracting more tourists could also be affected by the election  victory of Ada Colau, such as building new cruise terminals or expanding shopping malls, La Maquinista and Heron City.

Valencia

After 24 years as mayor of Valencia, Rita Barbera has not fulfilled her longstanding goal of joining the beaches and the city center with a large avenue, one of the flagship projects of her six legislatures, and also one of the most controversial ones.

The person who may succeed her as mayor, Joan Ribó, has been precisely one of the most fierce opponents of the plan. On the election night, he clearly stated his intention to terminate the planned schedule in the old fishing district of El Cabanyal.

The plan approved in 2001 was to demolish about 400 buildings in the historic district and make a public investment of at least 450 million euros. The private sector would later join in to finance the development and its facilities.

The outcry among local communities, ongoing legal proceedings, disputes with the Government of Zapatero and the crisis also brought to a halt another project that should have helped change the coastline of Valencia, one of the most dilapidated areas of the city.

Original story: Expansión

Translation: James Leahu