Elliott & Minor Enter the Bidding for HNA’s Stake in NH

30 May 2018 – Expansión

The bidding to acquire the stake owned by the Chinese holding company HNA in NH is entering the home stretch. The Asian giant has set this week as the deadline for the receipt of binding offers for its 29.5% stake in NH, which will be diluted to 25.5% following the execution of the hotel chain’s convertible bonds that are currently in circulation.

The investment funds that have made it to the final round are Lone Star, which has joined forces with the US hotel chain Hyatt to launch its offer, as well as Apollo and Elliott, who have also expressed their interest. Meanwhile, Starwood Capital and Blackstone, which both analysed the operation, have been excluded from the process.

The offers from the funds fall in the range of between €5.50 and €6.00 per share, according to market sources. Yesterday, NH’s share price closed at €6.39. Other sources explain that the funds have signed a standstill with the company so as to not exceed 20% in NH following the operation and whereby avoid having to launch a takeover bid for 100% of the entity at a low price.

These funds have also been joined by the Thai hotel chain Minor, which last week acquired €30 million of Oceanwood’s shares, representing 8.6% of NH, for around €190 million. The agreement includes a pact whereby the manager concedes Minor the right to exclusively negotiate the purchase of the rest of its stake in NH, which, after the bond conversion, will amount to 9.5%.

If it were to acquire all of HNA’s stake, Minor would clearly exceed the 30% threshold that would oblige it to launch a takeover bid for the entire company. In that scenario, the Thai group, whose shares are traded on the Hong Kong stock market, would have a number of alternatives: sell some of its stake on the market, buy fewer shares from HNA or request permission from the shareholders to launch a takeover bid (…).

Original story: Expansión (by Rebeca Arroyo)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Fortress Unwinds Its Final Positions In Spain

7 September 2017 – Voz Pópuli

Fortress has definitively closed a chapter in its history in Spain. The US vulture fund, regarded as one of the most aggressive in the world, has launched two operations in the market through which it is looking to offload its final positions in the Spanish financial sector.

The two deals in question are Project San Siro and Project Baresi. In total, they comprise paid and unpaid loans worth around €300 million, according to financial sources consulted by Vozpópuli. The candidates to buy these loan packages include other opportunistic funds.

The two projects essentially comprise the final dregs of the portfolio that Fortress holds in the Spanish banking sector: loans from Santander, Barclays España (now part of CaixaBank) and Lico Leasing, the former finance company of the savings banks that Fortress purchased at the height of the crisis.

The US fund, led in Spain by the banker José María Cava, was one of the first to enter the financial sector at a time when the lack of trust at the international level was at its peak. It was between 2010 and 2011, when the first interventions of the savings banks began and several cold mergers were carried out, which gave rise to groups such as Bankia.

Critical time

Fortress completed its acquisition of a portfolio from Santander in 2012, just before the rescue of the finance sector. In that deal, Fortress purchased €1,000 million in consumer credits from the group chaired by Ana Botín.

A year later, the US fund announced the purchase of Lico Leasing. That was Fortress’ last major operation in Spain, which broke down just two years later. The fund took a long time to obtain authorisation from the Bank of Spain to approve that acquisition, and so by the time it did receive it, the credit tap had been reopened and so Lico arrived late to the recoveries sector.

For that reason, Fortress decided to close this business and its other financial commitments in Spain. First, it sold one of its recoveries platforms (Paratus) to Elliott and Cabot. Next, it sold Geslico to Axactor. And in terms of the other portfolios (Lico, Santander, and Barclays), it let some of them mature and the remainder is what is now being put up for sale.

It also leaves behind other possible opportunities that the fund considered, such as its failed entry into the share capital of Sareb and of other savings banks, with which it was unable to reach an agreement due to the significant price differences. Fortress is now more focused on other business niches in Spain and most notably in the Italian market, where it purchased, together with Pimco, the largest portfolio of loans, worth €17,000 million, from Unicredit last year. Given its profile, the Spanish banking sector will become the focus of Fortress once again when the next crisis hits.

Original story: Voz Pópuli (by Jorge Zuloaga)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Lindorff Buys Aktua From Centerbridge For c. €300M

21 March 2016 – El Confidencial

Aktua, the real estate services company created by the former Banesto, which was acquired by the opportunistic fund Centerbridge Partners in 2012, is about to change owners once again. The Norwegian company Lindorff has reached an agreement to complete the acquisition for almost €300 million, which will turn it into one of the largest landlords in Spain. The Scandinavian company has fought off competition from Apollo Capital Management, the toxic property management arm of Banco Santander, as well as the German firm Activum SG Capital Management.

According to several sources, Lindorff has won the auction led by Barclays, Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Linklaters against those two opponents, and is now putting the finishing touches to the legal conditions so that it can close the operation. It has not been simple because, whilst Aktua was on the market, its parent company, Centerbridge, acquired the real estate arm of Ibercaja – on 2 February – which meant that it had to recalculate the numbers for the potential buyers.

Aktua manages around 42,000 properties worth almost €7,000 million; those assets will be added to those that Lindorff already manages in Spain. The Scandinavian company was one of the pioneers to invest in the real estate and recovery services sector when the crisis first began. In fact, in 2012, it bought Reintegra for €100 million, the subsidiary of Banco Santander dedicated to the recovery of doubtful debts, and in December 2014, it acquired Sabadell’s recovery arm, for which it paid €160 million. Along the way, it also acquired several non-performing debt portfolios, including several from the bank led by Ana Botín.

Currently, Lindorff España, which last year appointed Alejandro Zurbano as its CEO, employs more than 1,100 professionals and has a presence throughout the country, with offices in Madrid, Valladolid, A Coruña, Alicante, Barcelona, Granada, Jerez de la Frontera, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, San Sebastián and Valencia. The multi-national company from the North of Europe has almost 4,000 employees in total, located in its 11 countries of operation, including Norway, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Russia and Germany.

Although the amount of some of its operations have not been made public, Lindorff has invested almost €1,000 million to become one of the largest landlords in the country. Its work involves managing homes and retail premises, owned by the various real estate companies that it has acquired, claiming the payment of unpaid loans from their owners and negotiating the debt to obtain a spread. Once the last details of the purchase have been finalised, Linforff will manage non-performing loans, homes, retail spaces and land owned by Banesto, Ibercaja, Banco Mare Nostrum (BMN), Santander and Sabadell.

The sale of Aktua was essential for the main overseas funds that have become the largest landlords in Spain, because it is a volume-based business that is currently still very atomised. Sources in the market expect to see a process of concentration in the sector, in which almost €10,000 million has been invested, mainly on the purchase of non-performing loan portfolios. Some are already leaving, such as Elliott, which recently sold its recovery management platform to Cabot, and Fortress, which has now put its main businesses in Spain up for sale: the financing company Lico Leasing and the loan management platform Paratus.

For Centerbridge, the sale of Aktua is going to generate a sizeable profit, given that it acquired the platform for around €100 million in 2012 and is now selling it for almost €300 million. The real estate platform of the opportunistic fund employs 400 people and generates a gross operating profit or EBITDA of around €50 million.

Original story: El Confidencial (by Agustín Marco)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Fortress Finalises Its Withdrawal From Spain

17 November 2015 – Expansión

Strategy / The US fund will close the sale of Paratus to Elliott and Cabot Financial this week. It will also complete the ERE affecting more than 50% of Lico Leasing’s workforce.

The opportunistic fund Fortress is continuing its withdrawal from the Spanish financial sector. The US investor is finalising the sale of one of its financial businesses in the country, namely, Paratus, a platform that specialises in the management of problematic banking assets, which Fortress has controlled since 2009.

According to several financial sources, the sale of Paratus will be signed this week with the fund Elliott Advisors and the British group Cabot Credit Management Group, owned by JC Flowers and Encore Capital, taking ownership.

Each of the investors will take over a different part of Paratus’ business. Elliott is most interested in the real estate division and in the team. At the beginning of the sales process – known as Project Coast and advised by N+1 – Paratus held loans amounting to €152 million, secured by 866 properties; 500 homes worth just over €100 million; and a team comprising 43 professionals.

Meanwhile, Cabot is interested in acquiring the unsecured loans, which Fortress is selling for €426 million. The British group is looking to build upon its recent entry into the Spanish market, following its purchase of the Gesif platform from Elliott.

In addition to this possible sale, Fortress is also reducing its exposure to the Spanish financial sector by conducting an ERE at Lico Leasing. At the end of 2014, this subsidiary of Fortress had 130 employees. Through the restructuring, the fund has got rid of the commercial divisions of Lico Leasing, its other major financial business in Spain, which it acquired from the savings banks just one year ago; this means that it will no longer capture any new loans.

Complex operation

Fortress will continue to manage Lico Leasing’s existing portfolio and will continue to operate Geslico, its subsidiary that specialises in problem loans. That company recently integrated two of Fortress’s other companies in Spain: Auxiliar de Servicios y Cobros and Gestión de Activos de Aragón.

Fortress’s commitment to Lico Leasing was cut short due to the time required for its approval – almost two years – and by the re-opening of the credit tap by banks following the measures introduced by the ECB.

The US fund will continue with its other activities in Spain, by providing financing to companies and the real estate market.

Original story: Expansión

Translation: Carmel Drake

Centerbridge Could Raise €200M-€300M From Sale Of Aktua

6 November 2015 – Expansión

The consolidation has begun of the banks’ former real estate companies, also known as servicers. The US fund Centerbridge has put its subsidiary Aktua up for sale, which it acquired from Banesto in 2012. The operation – known as Project Pegasus – has been entrusted to the investment banks Barclays and Bank of America, and to the law firm Linklaters, and has been valued at between €200 million and €300 million, according to various sources.

Aktua currently employs around 400 people and manages real estate assets worth €6,000 million. Alongside the assets that originated from Banesto – whose management it maintained following that entity’s integration with Santander – Centerbridge also manages properties and debt from BMN and several recovery contracts for other entities.

Centerbridge’s withdrawal from the market was first triggered when Aktua lost the contract it had held with Sareb, following that entity’s tender to select new managers in 2014. Since then, those assets have been managed by Altamira, owned by Apollo and Santander, which seems to be the likely candidate to take over Aktua.

Sources in the sector do not rule out the possibility that Aktua will end up in the hands of one of the other servicers that are part-owned by funds operating in Spain, such as Altamira; Aliseda, owned by Värde, Kennedy Wilson and Popular; Haya Real Estate, owned by Cerberus; Servihabitat, owned by TPG and CaixaBank; and Anticipa, owned by Blackstone. They have also not ruled out the possibility that Solvia, owned by Sabadell, will enter the process, since it was awarded one of the Sareb contracts.

With these kinds of operations, international funds are looking to obtain scale and efficiency in order to make their platforms more profitable. These investors spent almost €2,300 million buying servicers from the banks.

According to Reuters, new funds, interested in entering the sector for the first time, may also join the bidding, such as the private equity firm Permira.

In addition to these possible mergers, experts in the sector also expect that some of the entities that have not outsourced the management of their assets may do so. In fact, Ibercaja is progressing with Project Kite, which includes 6,900 residential units, 1,300 commercial premises and industrial warehouses and 600 plots of land, worth €800 million, and a team of professionals specialising in the segment, comprising around 50 employees.

Centerbridge’s exit from this business comes at a time when other opportunistic funds are also leaving the market, such as Elliott, which recently sold its recovery management platform to Cabot; and Fortress, which has put two of its main businesses in Spain up for sale: the financing company Lico Leasing and the loan management platform Paratus.

Original story: Expansión (by J. Zuloaga)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Apollo, Oaktree & Elliott Buy 1,000 Homes & 5,000 Mortgages

7 July 2015 – Expansión

Overseas funds are becoming the new owners of banks’ problem homes and mortgages. In recent weeks, Bankia, BMN and Bankinter have all signed deals – or are close to doing so – to transfer almost 5,000 mortgages and 1,000 homes to five international funds.

According to financial sources, Apollo, Oaktree and Elliott have invested the most in the transactions, although the funds Chenavari and Ellington are also close to finalising agreements.

These sales could just be the tip of the iceberg, since many of the banks currently have divestment projects underway, with the aim of transferring more than 50,000 homes to large investors.

The largest transaction to have gained momentum in recent days is Bankia’s Project Wind – the portfolio contains 4,300 mortgages to individual borrowers and it will be sold to the funds Oaktree and Chenavari. This sale is just awaiting its formal signing and the investors are expected to pay between €250 million and €300 million for the portfolio.

New transactions

BMN has also finalised agreements in recent days, for the transfer of two portfolios. The first is Project Coronas, which contains 550 homes located all over Spain, but primarily in coastal (beach) regions. The US fund Apollo has acquired this portfolio for €16 million. It represents the fund’s first major purchase of this kind since it purchased 85% of the Altamira platform from Santander.

Moreover, the entity chaired by Carlos Egea (BMN) has also sold a portfolio of problem loans, including almost 500 mortgages, of which three quarters relate to individual borrowers and the remainder to SMEs. This project, known as Pampa, has been awarded to a fund that has so far had little presence in Spain: the US fund Ellington Management, which specialises in the purchase of overdue mortgages. This investor bought a small portfolio from Barclays in Spain a few years ago.

Meanwhile, Bankinter has closed the sale of 300 homes to the US fund Elliott. The portfolio was initially valued at €60 million. It is Elliott’s first property-related purchase; until now the fund had focused on the NPL segment through its Spanish platform Gesif.

With these kinds of transactions, overseas funds are looking to capitalise on their purchases of large real estate platforms, for which they have so far paid around €3,100 million.

With that in mind, the Spanish financial institutions have initiated the sale of other large foreclosed asset portfolios, such as Bankia’s Big Bang portfolio, with 46,000 real estate units. Sabadell and Popular will also sell portfolios of homes in the near future.

Besides the sale of mortgages and foreclosed assets, Spanish entities are selling large portfolios of loans to property developers and hotel debt, as part of their objective to continue divesting property from their balance sheets. Financial institutions such as Santander, BBVA and CaixaBank all have sales projects of this kind underway.

Original story: Expansión (by Jorge Zuloaga)

Translation: Carmel Drake