Euribor Falls to New Record Low

20 August 2019

The 12-month Euribor benchmark interest rate, which is used as a reference to set Spanish mortgages rates, fell to a new low of -0.398% last week. The rate first fell into negative territory in February 2016, as the European Central Bank’s (ECB) policy of quantitative easing looked to boost the Eurozone economy.

Euribor seemed to have hit bottom in March 2018, at -0.191%, when analysts began predicts gradual increases in the rate until potentially hitting zero in 2019. However, after rising to -0.108% in February, Euribor began falling again due to fears that the growth in the Eurozone was once again faltering.

Original Story: El Confidencial

Adaptation/Translation: Richard D. K. Turner

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

Blackstone Lends Fidere €543M to Pay a €120M Dividend

23 April 2018 – Eje Prime

Blackstone is going to refinance all of the debt owed by Fidere, its rental home Socimi. The US fund has signed a €543 million loan with an international finance company for its Spanish subsidiary. Thanks to this operation, the company is going to be able to distribute a dividend amounting to €120 million, as reported by the group to the Alternative Investment Market (MAB).

In addition to undertaking the refinancing of this debt, Blackstone is planning to use this new loan to tackle Fidere’s investment plans and to manage the distribution of the group’s reserves. In this sense, the objective of the fund, as the majority shareholder, is to raise funds to pay a mega-dividend.

Currently, Fidere has a financial debt with the fund that owns it of €117 million, in addition to the €270 million that it holds in mortgage loans with several Spanish financial institutions such as BBVA, Sabadell, CaixaBank, Popular and Bankia.

The capital injection that Blackstone has made into its real estate subsidiary has a term of two years, with the option of being extending to five years in the event that certain conditions are fulfilled. The payment of interest has been set quarterly at a rate of Euribor plus 2.5%.

This operation follows others that have been completed in the real estate sector in recent times involving international investment funds and real estate companies. Blackstone itself purchased most of the now extinct Popular’s toxic assets, worth €30 billion, from Banco Santander. BBVA also sold a large portfolio to another fund, Cerberus, whilst, recently, Testa managed to sign a €800 million loan without any mortgage guarantee.

Fidere owns 10,000 residential assets for rent, after starting operations four years ago with 1,860 homes, acquired from the Municipal Housing Company of Madrid (EMVS). Most of the Socimi’s homes are located in Madrid, although the company also owns properties in other cities, most notably, Barcelona.

Original story: Eje Prime

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

Socimi Vitruvio Signs €19M Loan With Abanca

5 December 2017 – Eje Prime

The Socimi Vitruvio has paid off an outstanding debt with a new loan. The company has subscribed a financing contract amounting to €19 million with Abanca. According to explanations provided by the group, the funds will be used to repay the debt resulting from the merger by absorption of Consulnor.

The debt assumed following the merger with the real estate company Consulnor amounting to €12.7 million will be paid off thanks to this new loan. The Socimi will also proceed to cancel the line of credit granted by Banco Santander amounting to €4.6 million.

The new loan with Abanca has a two-year grace period (until 30 November 2019) and a monthly repayment schedule of 14 consecutive instalments. The interest rate that Vitruvio will pay will be fixed at 1% during the first year, before rising to 1% plus 1-year Euribor from November 2018 onwards. The loan is due to mature in December 2031.

At the end of 2016, Vitruvio and Consulnor Patrimonio Inmobiliario (CPI) signed a merger agreement whereby CPI, a real estate investment vehicle created by Consulnor (the manager in which Banca March holds a 48% stake), transferred its assets to the Socimi in exchange for shares.

After closing the operations involving CPI and Madrid Rio, Vitruvio plans to undertake new investments amounting to more than €30 million this year.

Original story: Eje Prime

Translation: Carmel Drake

Haya Real Estate Issues €475M In Guaranteed Bonds

10 November 2017 – Expansión

Debt market debut / The real estate and financial asset manager Haya Real Estate is reconfiguring its liabilities with its first bond issue

The real estate and financial asset manager Haya Real Estate, owned by the private equity fund Cerberus, has debuted on the debt market by placing €475 million in guaranteed senior bonds.

The operation has been divided into two tranches. The first, amounting to €250 million, has been placed at a fixed rate of 5.25% and the second (amounting to €225 million), has been placed at a variable rate, linked to three-month Euribor +5,125%. The floating coupon has a zero clause for Euribor in such a way that negative interest is not computed. Currently, three-year Euribor is at minimum levels of -0.32%. The firm guarantees the payment of these issues with shares in the company itself and its service contracts.

Haya Real Estate has been assigned a B- rating by S&P and a B3 rating by Moody’s, which means it is considered high yield. Market sources maintain that demand for the issue was equivalent to more than twice the amount awarded in the end. The strong investor appetite has allowed Haya Real Estate to increase the amount of the issue, given that initially, it was planning to raise €450 million. To bring the issue to a successful conclusion, the firm engaged the services of Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan, Bankia and Santander.

Haya Real Estate will use the funds to repay a syndicated loan, to distribute a dividend to Cerberus, to hold onto cash and to pay the commissions and fees associated with the issue. In addition, it will return money that Cerberus lent it to acquire Liberbank’s real estate asset manager, for which it paid €85 million.

“Cerberus lent us the money until we were able to close the bond issue because the syndicated loan terms were more restrictive”, explained Bárbara Zubiría, Financial Director at the company.

Original story: Expansión (by Andrés Stumpf)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Registrars: House Prices Rose By 7.7% YoY In Q1

18 May 2017 – El Mundo

Homes are becoming increasingly expensive. House prices rose by 7.7% during the first quarter of 2017 in YoY terms, according to the real estate statistics published by the College of Property Registrars. With respect to the last quarter of 2016 – i.e. looking at the QoQ variation – the increase amounted to 4.1%. With these new increases, the cumulative adjustment since the peaks of 2007 continue to fall and now amount to 22.8%.

On the other hand, 113,738 house sales were recorded between January and March, representing the highest quarterly figure since the first three months of 2011. The increase amounted to 21.8%, with respect to the previous quarter. In interannual terms, the positive trend continued: prices rose by 14.4% with respect to the same quarter in 2016.

On this occasion, contrary to the trend seen in recent years, new house prices performed in line with the general increase, accounting for 18% of the total number of sales, with a significant QoQ rise of 27.5% (20,490 sales), whilst the sale of second-hand homes rose by 20.6% compared to the previous quarter, to reach 93,248 operations.

Purchases by overseas buyers reach peak levels

The weight of house purchases by overseas buyers remained relatively stable during the first quarter of the year to account for 13.1% of all registered sales. That corresponds to sales of around 15,000 properties per quarter. In cumulative YoY terms, foreigners accounted for 13.3% of all purchases, a historical maximum, and corresponding to more than 55,000 house purchases per year by overseas buyers.

By nationality, the British continued to lead the ranking, accounting for 14.5% of all purchases made by foreigners, although their continued fall over the last few quarters (during the previous quarter, they accounted for 16.4% of all purchases made by foreigners) has brought the figure to a new historical low over total purchases by foreigners. The French rose to second place with 9.6%, followed by the Germans (7.7%), Belgians (6.9%), Swedes (6.3%) and Italians (6.1%). These first six nationalities accounted for more than half of all house purchases by foreigners.

Average mortgage amounted to €116,182

Mortgage debt to buy a home increased by 3.6% compared to the previous quarter, to reach €116,182, whilst the number of fixed rate mortgages continued to rise sharply, in line with previous quarters, to account for 38.7% of all new contracts, compared to 31% in the previous quarter, a new maximum in the historical series.

This situation leaves variable rate mortgages at their lowest figure to date, especially, Euribor, which was the reference rate for just 60.3% of all mortgages. The average initial interest rates on new loans decreased slightly to reach 2.3% from 2.4% in the previous quarter.

The terms of new mortgage loans remained relatively stable, recording a slight increase of 0.7% compared to the previous quarter, and an average term of 23 years and four months.

Access to housing saw a slight deterioration: the average monthly mortgage repayment during the first quarter amounted to €536, representing a QoQ increase of 2.2%, whilst the percentage of that repayment over wage costs rose to 28.3% from 27.6%.

Original story: El Mundo 

Translation: Carmel Drake

BBVA: Housing Market Makes A Strong Start To 2017

10 May 2017 – Europa Press

BBVA’s latest report highlights the “positive” evolution of the real estate market at the beginning of 2017, given that house purchases are still being “backed” by mortgage financing, construction is continuing to grow and house sales are maintaining their upwards trend.

At least that is according to the “Real Estate Observatory of Spain”, compiled by BBVA Research, the financial entity’s research service and BBVA’s Real Estate area, which states that the recent review of the macroeconomic scenario by BBVA, which forecasts GDP growth of 3% this year, introduces “an upwards bias into the forecasts for 2017”.

In this sense, the entity highlights that house sales maintained their growth rate, supported by the “strong performance” in terms of employment and mortgage loans, whilst construction activity also “remained dynamic”.

According to data from the General Council of Notaries, during the first two months of 2017, 72,371 homes were sold, up by 13.9% compared to a year ago, but in line with the average for 2016 as a whole.

Amongst the factors that BBVA points to as reasons for the improvement in the real estate sector, are the labour market in Spain, which “has continued to improve”, as reflected by Social Security sign-on data, such as the Active Population Survey (EPA). According to the EPA, the number of people in employment grew by 0.6% during the first quarter of the year.

In addition, credit conditions remain “favourable” for households. Interest rates are at minimum levels: the mortgage rate for new operations remains at around 2.2%; meanwhile, the 12-month Euribor rate hit a new minimum in April, closing at -0.119%.

The mortgage market supports residential demand

Moreover, the mortgage market is continuing to drive residential demand. New loans to buy a home rose by 23.5% YoY during the first quarter, excluding refinancings, according to data from the Bank of Spain.

In turn, during the first two months of 2017, almost 12,800 housing permits were granted (20.3% YoY).

Finally, BBVA highlights that the dynamics in the market for land “are still positive”, given that during the first two months of the year, the number of transactions involving land rose by 12.8% YoY, which represents an increase in the traded surface area of 8.8% in one year.

Original story: Europa Press 

Translation: Carmel Drake

Blackstone Puts €400M Of Catalunya Banc’s Mortgages Up For Sale

27 March 2017 – Expansión

The banks have put a red circle around 2017 in their calendars, as the year when the doubtful portfolios that have hurt them so hard in the past and that are still denting their balance sheets even now, will show signs of life. Some of the entities may end up generating more profits than they initially expected.

And Blackstone is leading the way. The US giant has created a securitisation fund containing some of the non-performing loans with a nominal value of €6,000 million that it purchased from Catalunya Banc in 2015 for almost €3,600 million. Two years later, and after restructuring many of the credits, the investment group has decided that the time has come to capitalise on its investment.

It will do so with the sale to investors of a portfolio containing €403 million of these formerly delinquent loans. It represents Blackstone’s second foray into this field. Last year, the firm opened fire with the first securitisation of structured loans in Europe, although now it is redoubling its efforts given that the volume up for sale is 52% higher.

The fund comprises 3,307 residential mortgages granted in Spain, with a loan to value (credit over the value of the home) of 60.9%. Almost 80% of these mortgages have been restructured and many of the borrowers are up to date with their repayments. Meanwhile, there has been no change to the rest, according to information that Blackstone has provided to Moody’s to allow the risk ratings agency to make its assessment.

Profits

Blackstone’s aim is to sell this portfolio to investors in order to materialise some of the gains obtained from the management of the non-performing loans. In all likelihood, the securitisation fund will be placed below its nominal value, but at a much higher level than Blackstone paid when it acquired the mortgages from Catalunya Banc, before the State intervened entity was acquired by BBVA.

In exchange, Blackstone will offer different coupons to investors, depending on the type of mortgages that they take on.

The fund has been divided into five tranches, depending on the risk. The first has a very high level of solvency and so will pay annual interest of 3-month Euribor plus a spread of 0.90%.

The second and third tranches, which still have high or intermediate solvency ratings, will pay premiums over Euribor of 1.9% and 2.5%, respectively. The fourth tranche is ranked below investment grade and will pay a return of 2.6%.

The objective of Blackstone and the three banks that it has engaged for the securitisation (Credit Suisse, Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Deutsche Bank) is that the operation will be completed next week.

A new market

This second securitisation by Blackstone is clear confirmation that a new market has opened up for buyers of delinquent portfolios from the banks. In fact, sources from several investment banks are confident that there will be a significant volume of secondary operations of this kind this year, where the new owners of the bank’s non-performing loans will sell their positions to other funds and to the market alike, through securitisations. (…).

Original story: Expansión (by Inés Abril)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Ministry Of Dev’t: New Home Permits Soared By 17% In 2016

4 January 2017 – Expansión

Moreover, loans to build new homes have grown by 37%, despite the tightening of controls by the banks.

A decade later, the cranes are back on the skyline of Spain’s major cities once again. The economic improvement and return of credit to the property sector boosted the construction of new homes by 17% in 2016, according to the construction permit statistics published by the Ministry of Development.

The growth was driven by a 37% increase in the financing granted to construction companies and property developers, which received €1,025 million between January and October, according to the General College of Notaries. The banks have now digested the majority of the toxic assets left over from the bubble and are opening the credit tap to the construction sector once again, albeit including more restrictions and controls to avoid repeating the errors of the past.

On the one hand, in most cases, financial institutions are demanding that 80% of developments are pre-sold before the construction of any new buildings can begin. Moreover, the banks are requiring project monitoring to audit the execution of the work and, in the same sense, a more detailed control of the clients that choose to buy properties.

With the money loaned by the banks, property developers and cooperatives have started to design buildings aimed at capturing the demand for new homes that exists in the market. “Clients believe that the worst of the crisis is over and that prices are not going to decrease any further. Moreover, financing conditions for buyers are unique given the low level of Euribor”, explains Daniel Cuevo, Chairman of the Association of Property Developers in Madrid (Asprima).

But the doors to the new real estate market have not been opened to everyone. Most of the new homes sold are “reposition” properties, in other words, they are properties that replace homes that have become too old or too small for their occupants. Young people are finding it the hardest to form their own homes, due to the high rate of youth unemployment, the level of wages and the instability in the market. (…).

In total, during the first ten months of 2016, 16,043 permits were requested to build new homes. The sector expects to reach the 20,000 permit threshold by the end of the year, a figure that exceeds the number of permits requested in 2015 by 17%, but which is still well below the 113,000 permits requested in 2006, a record year, at the height of the real estate bubble. (…).

On the other hand, the new homes that are being built post-crisis are not the same as those that were built during the boom years. Now, property developers are designing buildings with three-bedroom homes that cost the same as a two-bedroom home back in 2006. Urbanisations, which become so fashionable at the beginning of the century, are also back in demand. “People want homes with padel courts and a swimming pool, plus they now also want specific spaces to celebrate parties for children and adults”, explains the President of Asprima. In total, the Ministry of Development granted 1,175 permits to build urbanisations in Spain during the ten months to October 2016.

The increase in property construction has been accompanied by more transactions involving land. The number of land purchases by companies recorded an average growth rate of 23% during the nine months to September 2016, across the country as a whole. In certain regions, such as Madrid, the increase during the first three quarters of the year amounted to 135%. (…).

The improvement in new build construction work also extended to renovations. Thousands of households took advantage of the economic recovery to undertake home improvements and even to extend their properties. Thus, during the first 10 months of 2016, 21,801 requests were filed to renovate or restore homes, up by 2.1% compared to a year earlier. Meanwhile, demand for permits to extend homes soared by 39%, to 1,634. (…).

Original story: Expansión (by Victor Martínez)

Translation: Carmel Drake