Swedes Are On A Mission To Buy Homes In Spain

17 July 2017 – Economía Digital

Foreigners are buying more homes than ever in Spain. Last year saw a new historical high, with more than 53,000 purchases by overseas buyers, despite a decline in acquisitions by the Brits and the French and a stagnation in purchases by the Germans. Instead, the Swedes have arrived and with them, Swedish real estate companies.

Swedes have risen to fourth position in the ranking of house purchases by foreigners. In its latest statistical annual, the College of Property Registrars in Spain highlights that overseas buyers are showing the “greatest strength”. According to the annual, Britons continue to occupy first place in the ranking, accounting for 19% of total sales to foreigners, although that figure has decreased with respect to 2015 (21.3%). They are paying for the effects of Brexit. The French have also lost strength, to account for 8.05% of the total, compared to 8.72% a year earlier. The Germans remained at 7.69%, just a few tenths more than in the previous year. By contrast, the Swedes increased their share to 6.72% from 5.89% a year earlier, which means that they purchased almost 4,000 homes in 2016.

When analysing this data, it is worth taking into account the demographic weight of the respective countries. Sweden had a population of 10 million in January, whilst Germany has a population of 82 million, France 67 million and Great Britain 58 million. And so, although the population is much smaller, Swedes are buying almost as many homes in Spain as the Germans and French.

The strength of the krona compared to the euro

Sources at the Swedish agencies attribute this interest in Spain to several reasons: the exorbitant prices of properties in their own country; the strength of the krona with respect to the euro; the desire of their compatriots to own a second home near a sunny beach; and, also, the publicity campaigns being carried out.

The most well-known of the Swedish real estate companies is Fastighetsbyrán, which forms part of the Swedbank group, the country’s main bank. It has a dozen franchises in Spain. Its CEO, Daniel Nilsson, said that it sold 1,050 homes in Spain to Swedish compatriots last year for a total amount of €250 million. Its market share in the housing segment for Swedes in Spain is almost 25%.

In terms of location, Swedes concentrate their purchases along the coasts in the south of the peninsula – preferably between the province of Alicante to the Portuguese Algarve – as well as in the Canary and Balearic Islands. (…). Investment funds have also arrived, such as Catella, which is headquartered in Stockholm and which last year closed four operations amounting to €84 million: two residential buildings in Madrid, another one in Barcelona and a retail park in Vinaroz (Castellón)

The Swedish real estate companies are unique in that the vast majority of the personnel and clients of the franchised offices come from the same country. (…).

The second largest Swedish real estate company in terms of sales is Bjurfors, with half a dozen franchises in Spain. From their offices in Marbella, they explain that they are open to clients from everywhere, but they acknowledge that, for the time being, all of their clients are Scandinavian, and most of them are Swedish.

Homes with sunny terraces

All of the employees consulted agreed that there is increasingly more demand. Scandinavian clients want homes with outdoor space: they have to have large sunny terraces or patios. Otherwise, they are not interested.

According to a study conducted by the Svenskar i Väriden organisation in 2015, more than 90,000 Swedes live for most of the year in Spain. According to data provided by the Swedish embassy in Madrid, in June 2016, there were 27,000 Swedes registered (empadronados) in Spain and two million travelled here for tourism last year. It is expected that 2.2 million will come this year.

Original story: Economía Digital (by Josep María Casas)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Taylor Wimpey Keen To Sell Its Spanish Subsidiary

3 March 2017 – Expansión

The British group has said that it will consider offers for its subsidiary, which builds homes along the Mediterranean coast and owns assets worth €150 million.

Taylor Wimpey said on Monday that its presence in Spain “is not strategic over the long term”, which is why the company is willing to sell its business in the country if an interested party submits an attractive acquisition proposal.

The Spanish subsidiary of the British real estate company generated an operating profit of GBP 20.6 million (€24 million) in 2016, a figure that doubled the amount (GBP 10 million) it obtained in the previous year. The improvement in results was due to an increase in house sales in the Balearic Islands, Andalucía and Alicante, the main areas where the company has developments.

The firm completed the sale of 304 Spanish properties in 2016 at an average price of €358,000, exceeding the 251 homes sold the previous year at an average price of €315,000. Most of those properties were sold to foreigners wanting a second home in Spain for their holidays or to retire. In total, Taylor Wimpey recorded turnover of GBP 93.6 million in Spain during 2016, compared with €58.1 million during the previous year.

“The residential market in Spain remained positive throughout 2016”, said the company on Monday during the presentation of its results for last year. “Although the weakness of the pound had an impact on British buyers, we still managed to generate a healthy rate of sales during the year, thanks to our diverse client base”. Citizens from Germany, Belgium and Sweden made up for the decrease in interest from UK investors, who in addition to being hit by a reduction in purchasing power due to the depreciation of the pound, were also fearful about the possibility of losing their rights to travel to and reside in Spain post-Brexit.

Pete Redfern, CEO at Taylor Wimpey, was asked during a meeting with analysts about the possibility of selling the firm’s business in Spain, once its profitability has been restored after the losses it suffered during the real estate crisis. According to Redfern, “the environment in Spain has improved, although it is still an environment that is not seeing a significant entry of new capital. Our business is functioning well, but if a good offer appears to buy it (then we would be interested). Our strategy over the long term does not involve staying in Spain”.

Taylor Wimpey has assets on its balance sheet in Spain worth GBP 123.7 million (€145 million). On 28 June last year, five days after the Brexit referendum, the company undertook a €100 million bond issue, to cover the currency risk of its Spanish business, whereby ceasing to finance its assets in pounds. Those bonds pay out an annual return of 2.02% and have a repayment term of seven years.

In total, the Spanish subsidiary has 19 developments, with a portfolio of 293 homes reserved, for a value of GBP 88 million.

The real estate company left the market in Gibraltar three years ago.

The Taylor Wimpey group, which besides Spain, operates only in the United Kingdom, recorded turnover of GBP 3,676 million in 2016 and generated a net profit of GBP 589.7 million.

Original story: Expansión (by Roberto Casado)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Wimpey Protects Its Homes In Spain From Brexit

28 July 2016 – Expansión

The British real estate company has refinanced its property developments on the coast through the issue of bonds amounting to €100 million.

One of the consequences of the UK referendum, held on 23 June in which Britons voted in favour of Brexit (to exit the European Union), may be a decrease in the volume of house purchases on the Spanish coast by citizens of the United Kingdom, as a result of the depreciation in the pound against the euro and fears about future restrictions over the free movement of people between the two countries.

Taylor Wimpey, the real estate company that has property developments in Andalucía, Alicante and the Baleric Islands, aimed mainly at British buyers, has decided to protect itself against those risks through a debt issue in euros to “hedge its investments in Spain”.

On 28 June, just five days after the referendum, the company completed a private placement of bonds amounting to €100 million with institutional investors, secured by its Spanish assets. The securities pay annual interest of 2.02% and are due to mature in June 2023.

According to market sources, this operation seeks to refinance in euros Taylor Wimpey’s debt associated with its assets in Spain, which amount to €168 million. By having the assets and debt of its Spanish subsidiary denominated in the same currency, the group’s balance sheet is more stable in the face of possible fluctuations in exchange rates in the future.

Currently, Taylor Wimpey has several property developments underway along the Spanish coast, where it has already committed to sell 399 homes.

During the first half of 2016, the firm completed the sale of 53 homes in Spain, at an average price of €342,000. Interestingly, one of these property buyers was Pete Redfern, the CEO of Taylor Wimpey. The chief executive of the group acquired two houses from the Spanish subsidiary, one for €278,000 and the other for €350,250. According to the company, the first home was sold at market price, whilst the other was purchased by Redfern taking advantage of the discount plan offered to employees “under the same terms offered to all other staff”.

Taylor Wimpey’s revenue in Spain between January and June amounted to GBP 14.8 million (€17.6 million), generating an operating profit of GBP 0.3 million. “We hope to continue making progress in the Spanish market during the rest of the year, given the strength of our order book” said the group. “Looking further ahead, we remain cautiously optimistic, given the potential implications of the macroeconomic environment in Europe”.

The company, which besides its business on the Spanish coast, is heavily focused on the United Kingdom, recorded revenues of GBP 1,457 million during H1 2016, up by 9.1%. At the results presentation yesterday, Redfern said that Brexit had not yet affected the group’s sales in the British market.

Original story: Expansión (by Roberto Casado)

Translation: Carmel Drake

“Lifestyle Investors” May Be Essential For The RE Recovery

9 July 2015 – El Mundo

The international estate agency Lucas Fox has published a report about the Spanish real estate sector, which illustrates the changes that the market has experienced since 2005, with prices peaking in 2007 and subsequently dropping until the middle of 2013. During 2014, the sector experienced a period of moderate stabilisation, before the current recovery kicked in with a stronger emphasis on high-quality properties and a long-term view of investment linked to lifestyle.

According to the agency, prices peaked in 2007, and remained stable in popular areas, such as the Costa Brava and Sitges, where they peaked in mid-2008. House prices then decreased by up to 40% in most areas, but less significant declines were observed in the “lifestyle markets” of Ibiza and the most sought-after areas of Marbella.

Meanwhile, prices experienced a steady decrease in Barcelona until Q3 2013, when the sector began to recover gradually to reach €3,263/m2 by the beginning of 2015.

On the other hand, Madrid and Valencia followed a similar pattern, but with lower values. The report prepared by the estate agency shows that both cities still have to maintain their quarterly growth rates in 2015. According to Alexander Vaughan, “over the last two years, thanks to the growing confidence in the recovery of the Spanish economy and in the Euro, in general, we have seen a revival in the market, with price adjustments at the global level”. Moreover, he adds that “Spain is as charming as ever and we are seeing a huge boom in the number of “lifestyle investors”.

Since mid-2013, the number of transactions has increased continuously in all of the regions served by the estate agency. This, the agency explains, indicates greater confidence in the market and more recognition from buyers. Nevertheless, there is still a long way to go before sales volumes return to their 2007 levels.

Original story: El Mundo

Translation: Carmel Drake

Meliá And NH Lead The Recovery In The Hotel Sector

20 March 2015 – Expansión

The economic recovery, the record number of tourists and the decrease in the price of crude oil explain the rally (observed in recent months) and (these factors) may continue to play in the hotel sector’s favour.

The outlook for growth in the Spanish economy has been improving in recent months. And, with it, investors’ appetite to capitalise on this trend.

One of the sectors that the market has set its sights on is hotels. Meliá’s (shares) have been trading at peak levels since November 2007 and NH is close to its highest levels in eleven months.

Both companies benefitted from record numbers of international tourists in 2014 (65 million visitors). A trend that could continue in 2015, according to the experts.

Cheap oil

The decrease in oil prices (which have dropped by 46% in the last six months) is also boosting the hotel sector. Cheaper fuel reduces costs for airlines (and therefore, the price of tickets), which means an increase in journeys and in the number of tourists.

This factor will have a particularly strong impact on holiday tourism, a segment in which Meliá shines, although it will also have a positive affect on urban and business tourism, the primary focus of NH’s business.

Both company have their own drivers. In the case of Meliá Hotels, a key factor is the appreciation of the dollar (which has risen against the euro by 20% in the last six months). The company has exposure to this currency thanks to its division in Latin America (26% of its business in terms of sales), where its businesses in Mexico and the Dominican Republic are particularly strong. By contrast, the Venezuelan market had a negative impact on the group’s accounts in 2014, as it had to reflect the collapse of the bolivar. However, experts believe that this factor is now reflected in its price.

Meliá has cut its debt by 15%, to €987 million, following the conversion of an issue of convertible bonds amounting to €200 million last December. The company still has another debt issue amounting to €250 million, which matures in April 2018.

The security is supported by a ‘purchase recommendations’ from 79% of the analysis companies, although it is now starting to trade in line with the expectations of some analysts, after rallying in recent months.

Nevertheless, Francisco Rodriguez, at Banco Sabadell, considers that it is trading at a discount of almost 7% with respect to its historical average, in recurrent EV/EBITDA terms (the ratio between the value of a company and the generation of operating profits).

NH Hotels

As for NH, the company has benefitted particularly from the ECB’s debt purchase program, which had a positive influence not only on the outlook for Spain but also for the Eurozone, which accounts for 86% of its EBITDA.

Furthermore, the resulting relaxation of debt in the markets is reducing the company’s financing costs, whose debt level amounts to €607 million, i.e. 4.7 x EBITDA.

On the other hand, as Antonio Pausa, analyst at Intermoney, explains, the company has reached an agreement with its creditors to extend the terms of the maturity (of its debt), which has allowed it to “gain some breathing space at the financial level”.

The market regards the new strategic plan favourably, in which NH sets out it plans to increase EBITDA by 25% in 2015.

With all of this, the share price has increased significantly, according to the experts, and so may take a break in the short term. The next catalyst will be the presentation of its first quarter results, scheduled for 6 May.

Original story: Expansión

Translation: Carmel Drake