12 January 2018 – Expansión
Advanced conversations / The retail giant and hotel chain want to cash in on the sale of a hotel portfolio comprising five establishments and more than 800 rooms.
El Corte Inglés and Grupo Matutes want to take advantage of the good times that the tourist sector is enjoying and the investor appetite for the real estate market to sell some of the assets in the Ayre chain – a brand of urban hotels, which they jointly control (50:50) – and make some money.
Specifically, the groups are finalising the sale of a portfolio comprising five hotels, with more than 800 rooms, located in Madrid, Barcelona, Oviedo and Córdoba, worth around €200 million, according to sources in the sector. Those sources indicate that the two companies have already received several offers and that the operation could be closed during the first quarter of the year.
Ayre was created in 2006 as the urban brand of the Palladium Hotel Group – then known as Fiesta and belonging to the Grupo Empresas Matutes (GEM) –. At the end of that year, El Corte Inglés purchased a 50% stake in the chain, through Parinver, its holding company. The retail group classified that acquisition as an operation of a financial nature at the time.
Currently, the urban chain Ayre owns 10 hotels in Madrid, Barcelona, Sevilla, Valencia, Córdoba and Oviedo. Last summer, the companies decided to put half of the assets up for sale and reposition at least two of the other establishments – the hotels in Valencia and Sevilla – under the Only You brand, the premium sub-brand of Ayre.
The company that owns Ayre is FST Hotels, controlled equally by Fiesta Hotels & Resorts (Grupo Matutes) and Parinver (El Corte Inglés). FST Hotels, which is headquartered in Palma de Mallorca, closed 2016 with turnover of €49.4 million, up by 14% and a net profit of €4.2 million, up by 100% compared to 2015, according to the most recent accounts filed with the Commercial Registry.
The President of the Company is Abel Matutes Juan, whilst Florencio Lasaga, the director of El Corte Inglés and President of the Ramón Areces Foundation (its largest shareholder) serves as the Vice-President. FST Hotels also has Jesús Nuño de la Rosa, the CEO of El Corte Inglés, on its Board, as well as Carlos Martínez Echevarría and Cristina Álvarez Guil, both directors of the retail group; and Abel Matutes Prats, Director General of Palladium, amongst others.
The operation forms part of the strategy of Grupo Palladium, whose objective is to grow through hotel management, and move from being an owner to a manager, in line with other Spanish chains. Palladium, which is headquartered in Ibiza and is more than 40 years old, has 50 hotels in six countries – Spain, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Italy and Brazil – and operates three other brands besides Ayre: Palladium Hotels & Resorts, Fiesta Hotels & Resorts and Ushuaïa.
Meanwhile, El Corte Inglés would add the sale of this hotel portfolio to the list of non-strategic divestments that the group has undertaken in recent months: in November, it reached an agreement with the fund GPF to sell it the management of its Motortown workshops, located in 55 of its shopping centres; in October, the company chaired by Dimas Gimeno sold 40% of Torre Serrano to Infinorsa for €50 million; and in September, it sold off a logistics warehouse in La Bisbal del Penedès (Tarragona). The group has also sold buildings in Madrid, Barcelona and Sevilla, amongst other cities, in recent months.
Original story: Expansión (by R. Arroyo and V. M. Osorio)
Translation: Carmel Drake