11 June 2015 – Bloomberg
Lone Star Funds, the private-equity firm founded by billionaire John Grayken (pictured above), will invest as much as €500 million this year buying land in Spain for housing developments as demand picks up.
“Despite the glut of homes in Spain, there are areas where stock is running out and we aim to fill that gap,” said Juan Velayos, CEO of Neinor Homes, the Lone Star unit seeking to become Spain’s biggest home builder. “We aim to build homes where there is solvent demand and where people can afford to and want to buy.”
Lone Star’s blueprint for Neinor signals the changing sentiment toward the nation’s residential property market, which is rebounding after a six-year slump when prices fell by as much as 40%. The company will buy land in Madrid, Barcelona, the Balearic Islands and some coastal areas where stock is being depleted, Velayos said in an interview in Madrid.
Dallas-based Lone Star bought Neinor from Spanish lender Kutxabank SA in December for €930 million. It has already signed contracts to purchase 230,000 m2 of land for €187 million to construct 2,050 homes, Velayos said. The firm will target middle class homebuyers aged 40 to 50.
House prices rose by 1.5% in the first quarter from a year earlier and there was a 9.4% surge in transactions. The Madrid region is helping to lead the revival, with sales jumping by an annual 20% in April, while the volume of transactions grew by 18% in Cataluña.
“Their strategy has a very high chance of success as properties are literally flying off the shelf in these areas,” said Fernando Rodriguez de Acuña, head of Madrid-based property research firm R.R. de Acuña & Asociados. “Targeting that stratum of the population is very astute given that that age bracket normally has stable employment, savings and already some equity in housing.”
Both domestic and international buyers evaporated when the economy collapsed during the financial crisis, leading to an international bailout of Spanish banks and the worst recession in the country’s democratic history. An excess of credit-driven construction before the slump led to a surplus of more than 1.6 million homes after sales plunged from 955,186 units in the peak in 2006 to 365,594 units last year.
“Demand for homes in Spain will never go back to the numbers we saw at the peak of the boom and for this reason we have carried out extensive research,” Velayos said. “Many excess homes and land are situated in areas that will never sell because there is simply no demand. So we only develop in areas where we have the complete conviction that people can and want to buy.”
An initial public offering of Neinor could happen if the plans for the company work out, Velayos said.
Spain has an excess of 1.6 million empty homes, of which as many as 60% were built in areas where there is no demand, according to Rodriguez de Acuña.
“Madrid, Barcelona and good areas on the coast such as Málaga are where we are seeing the most activity and the jump in transactions that we are seeing corresponds to those areas,” Rodriguez de Acuña added.
Original story: Bloomberg (by Sharon Smyth)
Edited by: Carmel Drake