Moody’s: Banks Still Exposed To High Volume Of Foreclosed Assets

12 May 2015 – Expansión

The US ratings agency Moody’s warned yesterday that Spanish banks still have a lot of foreclosed real estate assets (on their balance sheets), which are continuing to put pressure on the real estate market and are weighing down on the credit profile of the financial sector.

In its weekly report, published yesterday, Moody’s explained that with the exception of the transfers that some entities have made to the Asset Management Company for Bank Restructurings (Sareb), the stock of foreclosed properties on the balance sheets of Spanish banks has increased steadily since the start of the financial crisis in 2008. “The (volume of) foreclosed assets is increasing even though the health of the Spanish economy and its banks has started to improve”, said Alberto Postigo, Senior Analyst at Moody’s.

In his opinion, the banks are avoiding selling assets at losses and are waiting for the market conditions to improve significantly. “Although the Spanish real estate market experienced a slight improvement last year, with a 22% increase in the number of homes sold compared with the previous year, and property prices have now stabilised following several years of decreases, the recovery is not yet sufficiently strong to reduce the stock”, adds the expert.

Main factors

According to the Moody’s analyst, a variety of factors still persist, which are weighing down on the recovery of the real estate sector. These include high unemployment, a shrinking population and a huge stock of empty homes that the market is slowly absorbing.

Finally, the agency has points out that the exposure of Spanish banks to real estate assets, which include properties, as well as secured loans granted to construction and real estate companies, amounts to approximately €300,000 million. Real estate assets amounted to €83,400 million in total in 2014.

 Original story: Expansión

Translation: Carmel Drake

Santander, BBVA & Sabadell Start To Build Homes Again

11 May 2015 – Expansión

Property development / The large financial institutions are constructing homes once again in light of the improved macroeconomic outlook, demand in certain areas and the aim of generating profits.

Real estate development is no longer a forbidden phrase in the world of banking. Several major banks have decided to resume the construction of new homes in light of the macroeconomic improvement and the need to capitalise on property inherited from the crisis.

Entities such as Santander, BBVA, Sabadell and Popular are now not only focusing on selling the homes that were foreclosed during the crisis, they have also started to construct new developments over the last few months. Most of these developments are located in Madrid, Barcelona and to a lesser extent, on the coast, where there is still a large stock of homes to sell.

Another catalyst of this new trend has been the reduction in the losses recorded by the real estate arms of these banks. During the first quarter, Santander’s real estate division lost €95 million, the smallest loss since it was created three years ago; and BBVA recorded a loss of €154 million, 37% lower than during the same period in 2014.

Thanks to this, the group chaired by Francisco González announced on Friday that it is studying 25 developments to construct 2,000 homes, and that it has already started another 12 developments to construct 630 million. This statement was made by Lorenzo Castilla, Commercial Director at BBVA Real Estate-Anida: “This is not about filling Spain with cranes, but rather about projects that make sense”, who spoke during Madrid’s International Real Estate Fair (Salón Inmobiliario Internacional de Madrid or SIMA).


Full balance sheets

As the BBVA director indicates, financial institutions still had more than €83,000 million foreclosed assets (on their balance sheets) at the end of 2014, of which more than €31,000 million related to land and €4,000 million to buildings under construction.

To reduce this burden, the entities are nowadopting two strategies: the sale of homes through their commercial networks, a channel that has accelerated over the last year; and the transfer of portfolios and joint ventures with institutional investors.

For the time being, the entity that has announced the most ambitious housing development plan has been Santander, which reported that it is developing 300 real estate developments, at its most recent results presentation.

Banco Sabadell is also stepping on the accelerator in this sense. Its real estate arm, Solvia, currently has 1,400 homes under construction, primarily in Madrid, Andalucía and Valencia.

Aliseda, the real estate company that renders services to Popular, has also announced an ambitious plan to enter the market for real estate development.

Original story: Expansión (by J. Zuloaga)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Deloitte Strengthens Its Financial-RE Team

22 April 2015 – Expansión

Deloitte hires nine new professionals / The consultancy firm has recruited a team from Quadratia, a company that specialises in the residential RE sector

Deloitte expects to see a boom in the sale of homes and land to overseas funds; and it wants to become a leader in that market. The consultancy firm has recently strengthened its financial-real estate team by hiring new professionals from the specialist company Quadratia. The new recruits include the Managing Partner of that consultancy firm, Gonzalo Gallego, who joins as a Real Estate partner in the Financial Advisory team.

This move comes as a result of the belief that following the purchase of real estate platforms, shopping centres, individual buildings and loan portfolios, the opportunistic funds are going to focus their attention on the residential market this year and next. “We are seeing an increasing focus by real estate investors on the residential market, where they are interested in buying land, homes and other properties on the coast”, said Enrique Gutierrez, partner in the Transaction and Restructuring Advisory team at Deloitte. Gutierrez is responsible for the department where increasing weight is being given to the real estate sector. The RE team at Deloitte is led by the partner Alberto Valls, who Gallego will report into. In total, Deloitte’s Transactions team comprises more than 300 professionals.

Valls explains that, in the same way as has happened with other types of assets, “history is repeating itself and there is a lot of conviction amongst opportunistic investors that now is the time to enter the residential sector”. These types of funds are specialists in acquiring assets that carry higher risk and therefore, represent opportunities for extracting higher returns. “In a year from now, higher returns will be obtained. Once the situation stabilises, other more conservative, institutional investors will enter (the market)”, he adds.

In this context, investors are focusing their attention on banking assets: “(Many of the banks’) balance sheets are still fully loaded with debt from property developers and other foreclosed assets, and there are 400 funds willing to invest in Spain. No other segment has as much potential as the residential market”, says Gallego.

The banks are adopting two approaches to unblock the real estate plughole: the sale of homes in their networks, which accelerated every month in 2014 thanks to the mortgage war; and the sale of portfolios to funds. Deloitte estimates that there have been 30 transactions involving the transfer of (property) developer loans over the last year and a half.

The consultancy firm explains that the banks take three parameters into account when they put these types of portfolios on the market: time, cost and price. If the result of this equation shows that it will be more expensive to foreclose assets in the future than sell them at a discount now, then they put them on the market.

Original story: Expansión (by J. Zuloaga)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Top 6 Banks Lose €15,300M From Real Estate In 4 Years

10 March 2015 – El Economista

The real estate sector continues to be a major problem for financial institutions despite the economic recovery. The largest 6 banks lost another €3,027 million last year from their main property development companies, which together hold the bulk of the foreclosed assets, due to unpaid loans.

Following the results reported in 2014, Banco Santander, BBVA, CaixaBank, Sabadell, Popular and Bankinter have now suffered losses of more than €15,300 million in the last four years from their real estate arms.

Nevertheless, the rate of loss is shrinking due to the stabilisation of (house) prices, which have decreased by 40% on average, and the increased sales of homes and, even land. This is in addition to the provisions that have already been made, primarily in 2012, when the Government forced financial institutions to increase their coverage ratios substantially in the face of doubts in the market over the real status of the system’s balance sheet.

Thus, the deficit reported by these companies decreased by 36% with respect to 2013 and by 45% with respect to 2012, but it continues to be 43% higher than in 2011.

The real estate arm of CaixaBank, BuildingCenter, recorded the greatest losses in 2014, according to data published by the entities. Specifically, it generated a loss of €1,280 million. The Catalan group had to clean up its balance sheet by €1,900 million in the middle of last year, through a capital injection to adjust its balance sheet. Its losses have amounted to €3,000 million in the last two years.

Diminishing impact

Indeed, the Catalan group is the least optimistic about the property situation in our country. At the end of January, its CEO, Gonzalo Gortázar, predicted that the accounts of the real estate company “would continue to be significantly impacted” this year and next. Although, he did point out that the impact should diminish.

Canvives, owned by Popular, was the property developer that recorded the smallest losses: €52 million. The company, which used to be owned by Pastor, was merged into the group chaired by Ángel Ron. The deficit of this subsidiary has decreased by 91% in two years after the clean up. Popular holds another large real estate company in its portfolio, Aliseda, which generated additional losses of €146 million last year.

According to its management tem, Popular managed to sell property at a price slightly higher than its book value, after applying provisions, and it doubled its turnover (from this activity), to generate €1,500 million.

The bank, chaired by Ángel Ron, expects to increase the sale of property by 33% this year, as it gradually reduces this type of asset. It was the last entity to launch an aggressive price policy and it is intensifying (its efforts) to reduce the volume of homes and land it holds.

Santander’s property developer generated the some of the smallest losses last year. Just €119 million. This company’s deficit over the last four years amounts to €1,788 million in total.

Santander, like Popular and CaixaBank, is supported by funds, which strengthen the sale of their properties. The three banks have got rid of the majority of the capital (they held) in the platforms they use to manage this type of asset, with the objective of outsourcing the service and achieving gains with which to shore up their capital resources.

The strategy followed by BBVA, Sabadell and Bankinter is somewhat different; they have retained the overall management of their foreclosed properties, although in the case of the first two, the option of finding a specialist industrial partner has not been ruled out. Under no circumstances do these entities expect to partner up with any funds.

The volume of foreclosed assets increases

Although the volume of sales has accelerated, the balance of foreclosed assets is continuing to increase; although if we exclude the stakes held in property-related companies, this balance decreases for the first time since the crisis. In this sense, last year, Santander and BBVA succeeded in reducing the volume of homes and land in their portfolios. The former reduced its balance by 1.8%, to €7,851 million gross (excluding provisions), whilst the latter decreased it by 5%, to reach €13,016 million.

The six listed banks, excluding Bankia, which transferred the majority of its properties to Sareb during the financial bailout, together held foreclosed assets amounting to €70,000 million at the end of 2014, including the stakes they owned in property development companies. This means that the balance had increased by 9% with respect to 2013.

The forecasts made by the entities themselves indicate that all of this stock will have been liquidated within five or six years. Santander, for example, expects to decrease its balance by 20% each year, which means that it may have got rid of the entire volume of homes and land in its portfolio within five years. However, this will all depend on the economic conditions in our country and the recovery of the property sector, which is starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Original story: El Economista (by Fernando Tadeo)

Translation: Carmel Drake

The Five Largest Banks Sold 19% More Properties In 2014

10 February 2015 – Cinco Días

Banks are stepping on the gas in the race to reduce the weight of properties on their balance sheets. Last year, Santander, BBVA, CaixaBank, Sabadell and Popular sold 86,726 properties in total, an increase of 18.7% on the 73,000 units sold during the previous year. However, this boost in the rate of sales has not been reflected on the revenue side.

In fact, revenue from this activity grew by only 6.4% from €10,699 million in 2013 to €13,619 million last year, due, in large part, to the reductions in the sales prices being applied by these entities. The pressure being placed on real estate assets by the significant provisions imposed by the Government in 2012 has allowed these five large companies to sell off 230,000 properties in just three years.

CaixaBank holds the record for the number of transactions – in 2014, it sold 23,400 of its own properties or 35,870 if we include those owned by developers that it supports. Some of this success was based on its commitment to the rental market, which accounted for €1,132 million of the €2,512 million generated from its foreclosed assets (or €5,432 million if we include sales conducted by third parties), whereas it takes an average of four years to sell foreclosed assets.

Overall, Caixabank generated losses from this activity amounting to €1,148 million, an impact that the bank hopes to mitigate between 2015 and 2016. This drive should be helped by the Texan fund TPG, which now controls the entity’s real estate company Servihabitat.

Another one of the entities that recorded the best results in this field in 2014 was BBVA, which opted to retain control of Anida, its real estate platform, contrary to the general trend towards outsourcing. BBVA sold off 23,069 properties in total, including both its own properties and those owned by the developers it finances and whose homes it sold; in total, it recorded income of €1,932 million.

As a result, BBVA generated 18% more cash in 2014 than in the previous year. The company says that it has noted “more buoyant demand” in “an environment in which prices are slowly stabilising”. The entity, chaired by Francisco González, celebrates the fact that its losses in this area decreased to €876 million in 2014 from €1,252 million in 2013. And explains that this improvement is based on a lower volume of outstanding properties that need to be cleaned up and the “the launch onto the market of foreclosed assets with a smaller adverse effect”.

Banco Sabadell follows next in the ranking; it has also decided to retain control of its real estate company, Solvia, and is considering a potential IPO, as it observes a gradual improvement in the market. The entity sold 16,172 properties in 2014, both owned and third party properties, for which it generated turnvoer of €2,744 million; in both cases these figures represented a decrease of 12% on the significant number of sales it recorded in 2013.

Banco Santander, which recorded strong sales during the early years, reduced its clearance rate to 11,615 properties last year, however the higher value of the remaining assets allowed it to still generate revenues above the €2,000 million it achieved in 2013.

Finally, Banco Popular is one of the entities that seems to have benefitted most from the outsourcing of its real estate platform, Aliseda, which is now controlled by a consortium of funds comprising Kennedy Wilson and Värde Partners. The entity, chaired by Ángel Ron, increased its sales from 3,900 properties in 2013 to 8,600 units last year, and doubled the corresponding turnover, from €732 million in 2013 to €1,503 million in 2014.

“We would not be able to increase sales at this rate if the provisions were not sufficient”, reflected the bank’s CEO, Francisco Gómez at the most recent results presentation, where he stated that these provisions have enabled the entity to account for “the properties at market prices”. As a result, the number two at Popular hopes to “increase the value generated from real estate sales over the next few quarters”.

Original story: Cinco Días (by Juande Portillo)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Santander & BBVA Reduced Their Real Estate Stock In 2014

10 February 2015 – El Economista

In 2014, Santander’s real estate stock decreased by 1.8% and BBVA’s dropped by almost 5%.

Banco Santander and BBVA are beginning to shed some real estate weight. For the first time, the economic recovery has allowed the two large banks to reduce their portfolios of homes and land foreclosed from developers and individuals for the non-payment of debt.

The two largest financial groups in the country have managed to halt the entry of property onto their balance sheets and accelerate its exit, thanks to a boost in sales. Thus, the Cantabrian group has decreased the gross value of its real estate portfolio by 1.8% to €7,851 million. After accounting for provisions, which reflect current market prices, this value decreases to just over €3,500 million.

Meanwhile, the bank chaired by Francisco González has reduced its stock by 4.9% to €13,016 million. After applying the appropriate provisions, the value of its real estate portfolio amounts to €6,131 million.

Boost in sales

This decline in the assets of the two main entities has occurred at a time of stability in terms of prices, which seem to have bottomed out having decreased by 40% in the last seven years. This, coupled with the high provisions, which cover between 53% and 55% of the gross value of the assets, has allowed both entities to sell assets, above all, during the second half of last year, without incurring any additional losses.

The increase in the sale of properties and, even some land, also coincides with the war in the mortgage segment that was unleashed in 2014. The entities have launched campaigns to offer loans at the most attractive prices to enable borrowers to purchase homes, including from their own portfolios.

Different strategy

Santander and BBVA’s real estate strategies are different, but both are now starting to bear fruit, after years of burgeoning portfolios of foreclosed assets as developers and families found it impossible to pay their debts.

Santander, like many other Spanish banks, has transferred the management of these assets to Apollo. The Cantabrian group sold 85% of its real estate platform Altamira to the fund, and whereby achieved significant gains with which to strengthen its capital and transfer the management of the entire stock to a specialist company, which has also just been awarded the management of a portfolio by the bad bank or Sareb for the next few years.

BBVA’s plan is different. The entity, headquartered in Bilbao, has preferred to keep the management of all of its unproductive assets in-house, through its subsidiary Anida.

Although prices have now stabilised and the banks are now making some money on the majority of sales transactions after accounting for provisions, the real estate arms of both banks are still weighing down on their income statements. These divisions include not only foreclosed homes, but also loans granted to companies relating to the real estate sector. In the case of Santander, the real estate department recorded losses of almost €600 million in 2014, 8.2% less than in 2013. BBVA recorded losses of almost €800 million.

Both banks hope that these divisions will begin to generate some kind of positive yield within two years and they expect their respective stock balances to have disappeared or been reduced to an absolute minimum within five years. The decreases were more pronounced (in the double digits) in the case of loans to developers than properties due to the divestments performed in the wholesale market.

Original story: El Economista (by F. Tadeo)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Sabadell Puts €250m NPL Portfolio Up For Sale

29 January 2015 – Expansión

Opportunistic funds / “Project Cadi” includes non-performing loans that the entity once granted to real estate developers

Banco Sabadell is making progress in its strategy to reduce the volume of foreclosed assets and bad debt on its books. The financial group led by Josep Oliu, which today releases its results for 2014, has just put an NPL portfolio worth €250 million up for sale.

According to market sources, the so-called Project Cadi includes non-performing loans that were once granted to real estate developers. Through Solvia, Sabadell is taking a very active role in packaging these types of loans, in the face of strong buyer interest from opportunistic funds that are now active in the Spanish market. At the beginning of the month, the bank already disposed of another portfolio worth €435 million (Project Tritón), which included 630 non-performing loans to small- and medium-sized developers, as well as 700 foreclosed assets in Valencia, Andalucía, Cataluña and the Balearic Islands. This sale was put together through a bond issue, acquired by Deutsche Bank and Hipoges. Sabadell may already be sounding out the market with a view to selling other portfolios over the next few months.

This type of transaction reflects the confidence that funds have in the recovery of the real estate market in Spain. In parallel, banks are interested in this kind of transaction because they lighten their balance sheets and allow them to generate income from assets that are no longer productive and that have already been provisioned. According to sector sources, these transactions are closed with discounts of around 75%, which means that the funds are paying the financial institutions 25% of the nominal value of the loans.

The largest transaction of this kind in Spain was closed in 2014 by Blackstone, which acquired a €6,392 million mortgage portfolio from Catalunya Banc. Lone Star and JP Morgan also bought loans from Eurohypo amounting to €4,500 million. Other funds that have acquired portfolios include Aiqon, Lindorff, Cerberus and Starwood.

Original story: Expansión (by S. Saborit and J. Zuloaga)

Translation: Carmel Drake