Bankia Finalises Sale of its Largest Toxic Asset Portfolio to Lone Star

14 December 2018 – El Confidencial

Bankia is finalising the sale of the largest portfolio of problem assets in its history. The nationalised entity is holding exclusive negotiations with the US fund Lone Star for the sale of projects Earth and October, according to financial sources consulted by El Confidencial. Sources at Bankia have confirmed those conversations through a relevant event submitted to Spain’s National Securities and Market Commission (CNMV) and have said that “once the negotiations have been concluded, the market will be informed about them in detail”.

This macro-sale includes unpaid mortgage loans and properties worth around €3 billion. The negotiations are in a very advanced stage and the operation could be signed before the end of the year. The price could reach €1 billion, according to the average prices being paid in the market at the moment.

The group chaired by José Ignacio Goirigolzarri has sold these macro-portfolios taking advantage of the surplus liquidity in the market and the appetite from large funds for buying Spanish property. With this sale, the nationalised group will end 2018 with problem assets sold worth more than €5.5 billion – by September, it had sold €2.4 billion – almost doubling the annual divestment objective of €2.9 billion.

Lone Star has competed in this process head to head against Blackstone, which in recent weeks has lost the battle for the two portfolios to its US rival. The fund has redoubled its commitment to Spain after the changes that it underwent at the beginning of the year, with the departure of Juan Pepa and Felipe Morenés. These two executives led Lone Star during its purchase of Neinor and of the portfolio of large loans from Eurohypo in Spain.

Following those divestments and the raising of new funds, the fund is now betting on Spanish property again through its team in London. Bankia’s portfolio will be the second major operation after its purchase of a large proportion of CaixaBank’s assets and that entity’s platform Servihabitat.

Original story: El Confidencial (by Jorge Zuloaga)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Lería-Luksic, the Chilean Magnates Arriving in Spain’s Wealthiest Municipality

11 August 2018

“Wealthy Chileans.” That was the answer much of the real estate sector gave when El Confidencial was investigating the identity the people who just became the third largest landowners in the Pozuelo Oeste Distribution Area (ARPO), in Pozuelo de Alarcón, the wealthiest municipality in Spain.

The buyers are the executives Óscar Lería Chateau and Paola Luksic Fontbona, the couple who have just acquired 40,000 square meters of land, 8% of the total area, from La Caixa for 30 million euros. The couple plan on developing 396 homes on the land, according to sources in the sector. The transaction was executed through Paola Luksic’s family office Wildsur and Óscar Lería’s Osim, the Chilean newspaper ‘La Tercera’ confirmed.

ARPO is the largest urban development area in the municipality of Madrid, which has been in force for more than a decade, amounting to more than six million square meters. The construction of a total of 5,500 homes is planned for the area, of which 2,900 will have some type of protection. Sources consulted by El Confidencial noted that Luksic is likely to have signed an agreement with a local partner to build the homes houses, “possibly one of the landowners in the area,” as he had done before in other projects in which he was involved.

At the beginning of June, this newspaper reported on three operations in that area. Santander, Iberdrola and Servihabitat had sold or were about to sell their holdings in Pozuelo. Twin Peaks Capital was the first to snap up property, purchasing land controlled by the bank run by Ana Patricia Botín. Oaktree took over land from the power company and has allied itself with Banco Sabadell for the development. Only the identity of the buyers’ of La Caixa’s land had still to be revealed. Though he is known to value his privacy, Oscar Lería himself then made the transaction public, in which he partnered with the A&G Group.

Lería is married to Paola Luksic, daughter of Iris Balbina Fontbona (daughter of the Catalan Luis Fontbona Buxallen, who emigrated to Chile at the beginning of the last century) and stepsister of the Chilean magnate Andrónico Luksic, who control much of the business inherited from the Croatian billionaire Andrónico Luksic Abaroa (1926-2005). The Luksic family is one of the richest in the Andean country and, through Aeris Invest, one of its investment vehicles, recently demanded from Santander payment of the 113.02 million it had invested in 145.14 million shares of Popular in May 2017, one month before its resolution. Furthermore, the Chilean family’s fund threatened the Single Resolution Board (SRB for its acronym in English) with additional lawsuits should it not publish the valuation report 2 on Popular, since it considers that the 3 is irrelevant and “does not correspond to the real situation of the entity at the time of the resolution.”

The most expensive municipality in Spain

As Lería explained to the Chilean newspaper, the group set its eyes on the richest municipality in Spain three years ago, although they have been present in the country for years, especially on the Costa del Sol. After the end of the crisis, when investors were still avoiding the country, other large Latin American investors began landing in Madrid in search of opportunities. At that time, the Lukisc family again looked carefully at the Spanish market, where they plan to invest about 480 million euros.

“The family has been investing intermittently in Spain, but I decided to go and stay for the next 40 years. To create something that will last,” Óscar Lería declared to La Tercera, a newspaper that noted that the family had arrived in Andalusia in 2012 to “resuscitate a project” that had “died.” This project was the Lagoon Alcazaba, the first development with a crystalline lagoon in Europe. With 60 million euros, they also invested in half a dozen retail stores on Madrid’s Serrano street.

ARPO, the major urban development area in Madrid, is under the developers’ spotlight. Vía Célere bought in a year ago; iKasa has had land there for years, and Metrovacesa, which owns more than 46,000 square meters with a market value of 25 million euros, as shown in its IPO prospectus, are some of the principal property owners in the region. They are joined by Pryconsa, with long-term holdings in the area, and the newcomers Twin Peaks and Oaktree.

Four months ago, the city council of the district of Madrid finally approved the Partial Plan for the development. The procedure triggered the first real estate transactions and had caused the developers to begin taking positions before the final approval of the reparcelling and urbanisation plan takes place, the last procedure needed before the first homes can begin to be built. Also, fifteen days ago the project for a rainwater collector for Pozuelo, which will have to supply water to the new homes, was also definitively approved.

With an approximate cost of about 40 million euros, the Pozuelo de Alarcón city hall will contribute 20% of the amount, and the rest will be invested by the private landowners. ARPO, for example, corresponds to 52%, Eje Pinar 11% and Huerta Grande 7% – there are 16 urban sectors in Pozuelo. “This approval opens the way to launch public tenders for the works, with execution possibly beginning at the start of 2019. Also, it will also permit the execution of the urbanisation works in the rest of the sectors and make Pozuelo’s 2002 PGOU a reality”, the Board of Compensation for the region noted. “The collector is now a reality thanks, to a large extent, to ARPO’s new management team – the manager is the architect José Luis Oñate, while Pryconsa holds the presidency of Arpo and Ikasa has the vice-presidency – and the city hall’s technical-political team, which has demonstrated a true desire to move things ahead.”

The same sources assured El Confidencial that in a few months, construction for the collector would be tendered and the approval of the project of urbanisation and reparcelling of the Arpo is foreseen for the end of the year. “The plan is to combine construction on the collector with the urbanization, for which the approval of the Hydrographic Confederation of the Tagus will be needed and, subsequently, to be able to combine the urbanization works with the construction of the houses, for which the City Council of Madrid’s authorisation will be needed.”

Of all these urban procedures will depend, to a large extent, on the price that developers will be willing to pay for the land and, consequently, the final price of future homes will depend on a location with high demand and a very limited supply of new construction.

According to sources, the residual land value is at present around the 1.000 euros per square meter, well below the 1,600-1,800 euros currently paid in Valdebebas. “There are still urban procedures ahead, the land is not yet ready for construction, hence the price differential,” the same sources explained. At those prices, future homes could go on sale starting at 2,250 euros per square meter.

“Taking into account the price that is being paid for the land, the venture would already be profitable for the developers. That does not mean that, if the urbanization proceeds without complications, the prices might not be higher, considering the high level of demand in Pozuelo by people with elevated purchasing power who have been displaced to Majadahonda, Las Rozas and Boadilla del Monte in the absence of new builds,” says a real estate expert at El Confidencial.

The Madrid municipality was not oblivious to the crisis. From its high of 2007, when the square meter reached 3,807 euros, the price of new housing fell by 38% to 2,360 euros, just below the 40% nationwide, according to data from the appraiser Tinsa. However, in two and a half years, prices have increased by around 20%, largely due to the enormous shortage of product in the area and the elevated demand.

According to data from Foro Consultores, the average price of multi-family homes in Pozuelo de Alarcón hovers, on average, at 3,500 euros per square meter, with the average per house going for 610,000 euros, without garage or storage. Single-family homes average roughly 900,000 euros and 3,000 euros per square meter. However, as pointed out by this company, what characterises this municipality is that, depending on the location, you can find affordable housing in apartment buildings, while prices in better areas easily surpass one million euros, both for flats and single-family homes.

Venezuelans, Argentines, Chileans…

Since 2014, when the real estate market hit bottom in Spain, numerous Latin American investors have put money into Spanish property. The biggest Venezuelan investors have been the most active, especially in the neighbourhood of Salamanca, where, for four years they have rehabilitated many buildings to place on the luxury market.

The entrepreneurs Miguel Ángel Capriles and Axel Daniel Capriles, relatives of the Venezuelan opposition leader Henrique Capriles, bought, through Gran Roque Capital, more than a dozen properties in the most exclusive neighbourhoods of Madrid, totalling more than a hundred luxury homes. Barquillo Doce, Serrano Anguita, Pablo Aranda, Lagasca 38, Fernando VI and their latest project, Españoleto 19. However, the Capriles has also extended their investments to “more modest” projects. For example, they bought land in the vicinity of the Vicente Calderón stadium from Prosegur, while they are the financial partners of Grupo Ibosa in the purchase of ready-to-build land north of Madrid. The Venezuelan family Pizzorni, through Italinmuebles, is also behind several luxury projects in the capital such as Alfonso X and Montalbán 11.

On the other hand, the Argentines Jorge Pepa – brother of Juan Pepa, former head of Lone Star in Spain and architect of Neinor’s IPO – and Francis Btesh, manage through their company 1810 Capital, investments by the Argentine-Israelis Zev and Sergio Gustavo Marynberg. The firm’s purchases include properties at Santa Isabel 21, Tirso de Molina and Barceló. All of them are being converted into luxury homes.

Among the Mexicans, the best known and most active investor has undoubtedly been Carlos Slim (FCC, Realia …), while the less known Mexican investor Moisés El-Mann Arazi has also carried out operations in Spain, and is behind the purchase 253 branches leased to Banco Sabadell from Moor Park Capital Partners for €290 million.

After the fiasco at Banco Popular, the Luksic family will bet on the Spanish property market, where it plans to invest a total of 480 million euros

The Chilean family Luksic, the main shareholders in the mining company Antofagasta, Banco de Chile and the Compañía de Cervecerías Unidas (CCU), took a 3% stake in Banco Popular last year, valued at more than 2.9 billion euros. Óscar Lería and Paola Luksic’s plans for Spain, after their family’s failed investment in the financial institution, are limited to the Spanish property market, where they expect to invest a total of 480 million euros, Lería revealed to La Tercera. In the short term, they will invest 200 million euros, focusing on Seville and the Balearic Islands, especially Ibiza.

In fact, the couple signed an agreement with Mediterranean Capital Management, a firm based in Barcelona, to search for land. The two groups are going to begin developing a project in Mallorca in the next few months, near the Marivent Royal Palace, resulting in about twenty luxury flats costing between 1.3 and 1.5 million euros, according to the Chilean newspaper.

Pozuelo is Óscar Lería Chateau’s most recent investment. Through the Osler company, he has been making important real estate investments in Spain since 2012, during the middle of the property crisis, working with local investors. He currently has several second-residence projects in Marbella, between Estepona and Puerto Banús.

Original Story: El Confidencial – E. Sanz / Ó. Giménez

Translation: Richard Turner

Juan Pepa: “The Recovery of the RE Sector Has Solid Foundations”

29 June 2018 – Eje Prime

Spain is doing well. At least that is according to the heads of the domestic and international funds that participated in the Square forum, a business meeting that is being held at the moment in Ibiza and which has brought together the leaders of the Spanish real estate sector to discuss new concepts and disruptive models.

Under the slogan “money never stops”, Javier Faus, founder and CEO of Meridia Capital, said at Square that “money will continue to be invested in the Spanish real estate sector for at least the next ten years”.

For the Catalan businessman, real estate is “growing” and he pointed out in a debate about investments at the meeting, moderated by Stephen Newman, the CEO of Savills Aguirre Newman, that “Spain has always been unique: despite the economic crises or threat of Cataluñan independence, and now the change of Government, large funds have always come here to invest”.

Of the same opinion is Juan Pepa, another of the guests at the roundtable organised by Square. Perhaps, the main driver behind the IPO of the property developer Neinor Homes, in his capacity as the former senior director of the fund Lone Star in Spain, Pepa highlighted that “the recovery of the real estate sector has solid foundations”. “You just have to look at the way in which the banks are now lending money in the residential sector: they are being very cautious”, said the now co-Managing Partner of Stoneshield.

In this regard, Faus added that in the market where his corporation dominates the most, the office segment, “we are not going to see rents return to their 2007 levels for another five years”. Therefore, according to the director, there is still scope for growth in a sector that in Barcelona and Madrid is looking very strong, taking advantage of the pull of the economic recovery and the arrival of international companies to the country.

Logistics and alternative assets, the great desires

“Now, everyone wants to invest in logistics”. That is how one international heavyweight committed to Spain summed up the target of the funds. Evan Carruthers, Managing Director of Castlelake, recognises that for his opportunistic fund, those types of assets are not attractive, given that “there is too much money looking for logistics assets”, he said.

His investment firm, which, amongst others, controls the listed property developer Aedas Homes, remains faithful to the residential market, in contrast to the other experts around the table.

For Juan Pepa and his fund, student halls, one of the most sought-after alternative assets at the moment, are very attractive “and so too are logistics assets, but we don’t touch them because we are small”.

In the appeal of halls of residence, the Argentinian business agrees with Brookfield, “the largest real estate company in the world”, according to the Spanish leader Ismael Clemente, CEO at Merlin and one of the promoters behind Square’s debut this year. The Director of Investments in Europe at the US giant, Brad Hyler, added that the problem on the continent is political instability but he did not assess in any detail the Spanish market, where his firm does not yet have a presence.

Those who are investing a lot of capital in Spain, and it seems that they will continue on this path over the coming years, are Latin American property companies and family offices. Pepa said in his intervention that “we will see much more money from Latin Americans investing in the country”.

In his closing comments on the second of three days, Clemente wanted to point out that in a real estate world in which the fashionable term is “to create experiences”, real estate “is, without doubt, the most human productive sector: we create employment and there is a healthy atmosphere between us”.

Original story: Eje Prime (by Jabier Izquierdo)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Morenés & Pepa Launch a New RE Fund with Warren Buffet

19 January 2018 – El Confidencial

Juan Pepa (pictured above left), the man who brought Lone Star to Spain, and Felipe Morenés, the son of Ana Botín and executive of the Texan fund for five years, are working together again. The two directors have just launched Stoneshield Capital, a firm that plans to invest €300 million in the Spanish real estate sector.

According to sources in the know, the two partners already have €200 million of capital, money that proceeds from: their own assets, some of Lone Star’s institutional investors and the famous financier Warren Buffet, who has decided to back them in this venture, although the parties involved did not want to confirm that information.

Unlike in the case of Lone Star, which has an opportunistic profile, Morenés and Pepa now want to focus on more conservative operations, which will limit the level of indebtedness of the new fund to around 50%, meaning that its investor capacity will reach the aforementioned €300 million.

The plans of these two partners are already very well advanced, with several operations on the table under analysis, and with the aim of investing all of that money in just a year, in other words, during the course of 2018, to take advantage of the current cycle.

Although the bulk of Stoneshield’s operations will be carried out in the residential segment, the firm is also interested in acquiring hotels, offices and commercial assets, according to the same sources.

Agreed departure

In November, in an email sent only to his circle of trust, Pepa announced that he was leaving Lone Star and that he would be taking a two-month sabbatical in his home country, Argentina, although in that email he also hinted that after Christmas he would be back in the news in Spain.

Letting that time pass was one of the commitments that Pepa agreed with Lone Star. That firm was already pursuing its exit strategy when, last summer, Santander put Popular’s €30 billion real estate asset portfolio on the market.

The Texan fund, led by Pepa and Morenés, fought to the end to acquire those assets, which would have resulted in Lone Star’s continuation in Spain. But Blackstone’s triumph meant that the fund decided to continue with its policy to close the cycle and so Pepa and Morenés opted to put their own plans into play.

Then, according to the sources, the two parties agreed to wait for Lone Star to complete its divestment from Neinor before moving actively in the Spanish market. The US fund sold its final 12.5% stake in the real estate company last week.

Morenés, meanwhile, has also left Lone Star, according to Vozpópuli, and the two partners are now working to create a team of around 10 people with whom they plan to operate with the same speed and element of surprise that characterised Lone Star when it first arrived in Spain.

Original story: El Confidencial (by Ruth Ugalde)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Juan Pepa Leaves Lone Star For Pastures New

7 November 2017 – El Confidencial

Juan Pepa was the first person to seriously back the Spanish property development market and, having reaped the rewards, the Argentinian director has decided that now is time for a change of scenery. Mr Pepa (pictured below left), leader of Lone Star in Spain, will hand over control of the US fund next month, to undertake new projects in the country from January onwards, according to sources familiar with his decision. The man himself declined to comment on the news.

With Mr Pepa’s departure, a cycle closes in the real estate market. Having starred in many of the large property-related operations in the Spanish market in recent years, the jewel in his crown was the creation of the property developer Neinor. It was the first firm of its kind to debut on the stock market in almost a decade, and it has seen its share price appreciate by 9% since it first listed in March.

Lone Star created that housing giant after acquiring Kutxabank’s real estate business, in December 2014, for €930 million, an operation that represented the largest sale of a real estate company in Spain since 2007. A year later, the company debuted on the stock market with a capitalisation of €1,300 million.

Mr Pepa’s commitment to the Iberian peninsula has allowed Lone Star to become one of the major players in the economic recovery, a prize that came after it had dared to buy assets at the height of the crisis when most other funds were withdrawing.

Project Octopus

It was in this context that Mr Pepa managed to secure another one of his key milestones, the purchase of Eurohypo’s Spanish real estate together with JP Morgan. Baptised as Project Octopus, this portfolio comprised more than €4,000 million real estate loans in Spain and Portugal.

One of the assets that the firm ended up controlling as a result of this purchase was the Adequa office complex, which was owned by Bami until Lone Star executed the debt that it held and opened a process to sell the property. The buyer was another one of the main players that has turned the sector around, Merlin, with an offer of €380 million.

In Portugal, Lone Star has just completed the purchase of 75% of Novo Banco, another one of the legacies that Mr Pepa will leave behind. Many investors expect to soon see a recovery in Portugal similar to the one already being enjoyed in Spain.

In fact, in addition to the assets from Octopus, in recent years, the fund has taken other positions in the neighbouring country, such as a 2,000-hectare plot of land that it acquired from Catalunya Banca in the Algarve for €200 million.

Despite all of these achievements, Juan Pepa leaves Lone Star with the bitter taste after he was unable to win his last big battle: the €30,000-million portfolio of toxic assets from Banco Popular that Santander sold in the summer. His fund had featured amongst the favourites but the portfolio ended up being awarded to another investment giant: Blackstone.

Original story: El Confidencial (by Ruth Ugalde)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Who Are The New Owners In Spain’s RE Sector?

11 April 2017 – Cinco Días

Two weeks ago, Neinor Homes debuted on the stock market, the first residential property developer to do so in a decade. (…). Who is behind the current transformation of the sector?

Neinor Homes was created just two years ago by the US fund Lone Star, which purchased the former real estate arm of Kutxabank for €935 million. The Texan firm injected capital, bought land, renewed the image and put its first cranes in place to surf the top of the wave of the recovery in the house construction segment. The company debuted on the stock market, much more quickly than it had initially planned, with a valuation of €1,300 million, and an excess of demand over supply of 4.3 x, from large investors.

The real estate company led by Juan Velayos, as CEO, and Juan Pepa, as Lone Star’s strong man in Spain, has demonstrated investors’ appetite for residential construction – the last segment to recover in the real estate sector. Experts indicate that demand for homes in Spain will amount to around 150,000 properties per year, compared with the 50,000 units that are currently being constructed. This is a space that nobody has occupied in recent years, following the death of classic developers such as Martinsa-Fadesa, Reyal Urbis, Astroc, Nozar and Habitat.

But Neinor is just the first of many. It is being followed by the US fund Värde Partners, possibly the most active in terms of purchases in Spain, which created Dospuntos using its own land and the basis of the former real estate business of Grupo San José. Last month, it starred in its latest large acquisition, purchasing Vía Célere, the property developer created by Juan Antonio Gómez-Pintado, for €90 million. (…).

And following both of them is Aedas, backed by the fund Castlelake, which is also proving very active in creating an enormous bank of land. These three real estate companies alone are expected to invest around €5,000 million in land, purchases and investments. And the latter two may well follow in Neinor’s footsteps with stock market listings.

These new property developers are replacing the Socimis in the newspaper headlines (…), which since 2014 have been active in the first segment to experience the recovery, namely, rental assets: large office buildings, commercial premises, shopping centres, hotels and industrial warehouses.

The leader in that sector is Merlin Properties, which has become one of the leading real estate companies in Europe, with a portfolio of assets worth €9,800 million. (…).

The other large Socimi that has attracted international capital since 2014 is Hispania, managed by Grupo Azora, a Spanish fund backed by Concha Osácar and Fernando Gumuzio. (…). It has become the largest purchaser of hotels in Spain, with a giant portfolio worth €1,800 million.

Lar España, managed by Grupo Lar, and Axiare, chaired by Luis López de Herrera-Oria are the other large Socimis on the main stock market, which have created net assets worth more than €1,200 million in record time. But they are not the only ones. Attracted by the tax benefits, many wealthy families have also used this legal structure to organise their assets. Examples include the Montoro Alemán family with the Socimi GMP (…).

Not to mention the large international real estate funds, such as Blackstone, Cerberus, Iba Capital, TH Real Estate, Orion, HIG and GreenOak, which, together with the Socimis, have been and are the most active players in terms of acquisitions.

The Barcelona-based firm Inmobiliaria Colonial has also undergone a comprehensive clean-up, with the segregation of its toxic land and residential business, to become the second-largest real estate company in the country, after Merlin. (…).

Meanwhile, Metrovacesa has headed in the opposite direction. After transferring its tertiary business to Merlin, it is now getting ready to become one of the major players in the residential sector, with the backing of BBVA and Santander. Similarly, the Mexican magnate Carlos Slim has revived Realia, also giving new life to the dead activity of house construction.

Other key players in recent years have been the banks’ platforms or servicers, such as Aliseda, Anida, Solvia, Altamira and Servihabitat, which have been managing the real estate portfolios of the financial institutions and promoting housing developments. (…).

Original story: Cinco Días (by Alfonso Simón Ruiz)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Neinor’s Share Price Rises By 3.16% On First Day Of Trading

31 March 2017 – Eje Prime

Neinor Homes ended its first day of trading on the stock market on a high, as its share price increased by 3.16% following its debut on Wednesday. Its shares ended their first trading session at a price of €16.98 per share compared with the price of €16.46 set for their debut on the stock market.

The largest real estate development company to be listed in the last decade saw its shares appreciate by 9.96% at one point, given that during trading its share price fluctuated between a low and high of €16.98 and €18.10 per share, respectively.

The real estate company’s shares began trading at 12:00, following the traditional ringing of the bell by its CEO, Juan Velayos (pictured above) and the representative of Lone Star, Juan Pepa, at the Bilbao Stock Exchange, where the firm has its corporate headquarters.

The objective of the real estate company’s IPO is to reduce debt and continue acquiring plots of land in areas with strong demand. Neinor intends to list on the stock markets in Madrid, Bilbao and Valencia.

The group owns one of the largest portfolios of buildable land in Spain, comprising 161 developments and 9,086 homes. As at 31 December 2016, its buildable land portfolio was worth €1,120 million and had a development value of €2,548 million.

Original story: Eje Prime

Translation: Carmel Drake

Lone Star Puts ‘Rivas Futura’ Retail Park Up For Sale

9 July 2015 – Cinco Días

The opportunistic fund Lone Star has put the Rivas Futura retail park, in the Madrilenian town of Rivas Vaciamadrid, up for sale. The retail space covers an area of more than 40,000 m2 and includes around 30 large stores, such as Toys’r’us, Leroy Merlin, Media Markt, Decathlon, Kiab and Prenatal.

The retail park opened in May 2006. In 2008, the insurance company Axa Reim purchased it from Avantis for €81 million. Subsequently, it was included in Eurohypo’s secured loan portfolio.

The asset was subsequently included in the so-called Project Octopus, loans that were sold by Commerzbank (after its acquisition of Eurohypo), which Lone Star ended up purchasing.

This retail park currently has an occupancy rate of 80% and market sources say that the sales price could stand at around €70 million. The transaction has been brokered by Knight Frank, which has declined to comment on proceedings.

In Spain, Lone Star also acquired Kutxabank’s real estate arm, Neinor, last December, for €930 million and obtained control over the former Basque cajas’ property management platform. This fund, led by Juan Pepa in Spain, is committed to the residential market, through Neinor, and has plans to invest up to €1,000 million in land.

Original story: Cinco Días (by Alfonso Simón Ruiz)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Lone Star Becomes The Largest Property Developer In Spain

18 May 2015 – Expansión

Strategy / The US firm, which was one of the first investors to arrive in Spain, has become the largest owner of land in the country after purchasing the real estate arm of Kutxabank. It also owns loans relating to large hotels and shopping centres.

It is neither a vulture fund nor an opportunistic fund. Lone Star is a patriotic fund. That is the mantra repeated by Juan Pepa (pictured above) at every forum he attends. The 37-year old Argentinian, former polo player, is the head of Lone Star in Spain and Portugal, the private equity fund that last week took over the baton from Vallehermoso, Reyal Urbis and Martinsa Fadesa, to become the largest property developer in the country. “Opportunistic funds are patriots because there was a need to bring confidence to Spain and we did it”, explained Juan Pepa two weeks ago at a real estate conference in Madrid.

Last week, Lone Star formalised the purchase of Neinor, the real estate arm of Kutxabank, with assets worth €1,000 million. Of this amount, around €590 million correspond to homes that are finished or under construction. The rest relates to land, which will be added to other land acquired from banks and property developers (€300 million). The fund aims to promote more than 3,000 homes each year; this year it will invest €1,000 million on the purchase of land. But, who is this new property developer?

This private equity firm was created in 1995 by the Irish-American John Grayken. Since its creation, it has launched 14 funds with a total volume of $54,000 million. Its investments range from properties, to debt, to other financial assets.

In the case of the real estate business, Lone Star’s first investments focused on Canada, and so it became a global investor in 1997. It closed its first transaction in the Spanish market in May 2014. However, by that point, Juan Pepa and his team had already been studying the market for several years. The first in-roads were made between 2010 and 2011, with Pepa’s monthly visits to Spain. During his stays in Madrid, the director met with advisors and managers of large real estate companies and although the sector was at the peak of its crisis, he told them that he wanted to purchase assets in Spain. “He made offers for buildings under development and for companies, but none of those deals were closed, due to a lack of agreement in terms of price. The offers were aggressive”, explained one of the advisors who often works with the US fund.

In the end, Lone Star’s first transaction in the Spanish real estate sector was through debt. The company purchased a portfolio (called Octopus) in May 2014 containing non-performing loans from the bank Eurohypo for €3,500 million (two thirds of its nominal value). These loans were secured by numerous properties, including several shopping centres: the H2O in Rivas (Madrid); Zielo in Pozuelo (Madrid); Dolce Vita in A Coruña; MN4 in Valencia; and hotel debt, including the Ritz and Gran Melia Fénix, both in Madrid.

It was not its first bid for a real estate portfolio. In the summer of 2013, Lone Star was about to purchase the Bull portfolio, the first package sold by Sareb. In the end, the portfolio was awarded to the fund HIG, much to the upset of Lone Star’s managers.

Team

For the management of its assets, Lone Star relies on a company called Hudson Advisors (also owned by the founder of Lone Star). Headquartered in Madrid, Hudson, “manages, administers and adds value” to the investments made by Lone Star. Between the teams at Hudson and Lone Star itself, the fund has more than one hundred employees looking for opportunities in the Iberian Peninsula, since the US fund is not only interested in Spain. In April, it bought the Lusort Vilamoura complex in the Algarve (Portugal) for €200 million.

After purchasing Neinor, Lone Star has joined its teams together in a single office building located on the Paseo de la Castellana in Madrid. The most senior executives from the US fund attended the opening, just a few weeks ago; as well as enjoying the party at the new headquarters of Lone Star in Spain, they also visited some of the assets that the fund has foreclosed from the Octopus portfolio.

The ambitious commitment by Lone Star has resulted in a revolution in the sector, which does not doubt that it will provoke a ‘pull effect’ on other international investors, which will start to see land in Spain in a different light.

Original story: Expansión (by Rocío Ruiz)

Translation: Carmel Drake