AXA & CBRE GI Buy Resa, The Student Hall Giant

19 September 2017 – El Confidencial

Azora, Artá Capital, March Campus (the investment vehicle backed by Banca March clients) and Mutua Madrileña have reached an agreement to sell 100% of Grupo Resa to a group of international investors. AXA IM – Real Assets and CBRE Global Investment Partners – on behalf of their clients – have acquired most of the portfolio, whilst Greyster, which has acquired the operating business, will act as the asset manager.

The operation is subject to final authorisation from the competition authorities and, although the amount of the transaction is unknown, real estate experts say that it will be one of the most important transactions in 2017 by investment volume.

Grupo Resa, which has been on the market since the beginning of March, has consolidated its position as the largest platform of student halls in Spain, with 9,309 beds in 19 cities, including Madrid, Barcelona and Salamanca. Resa is the largest student hall company in Spain, and in Continental Europe. Managed by Azora since 2011, it has experienced significant growth during that period, increasing its portfolio of halls from 26 to 37, of which 33 are currently operational and the remaining 4 are being constructed. BBVA and CBRE have acted as financial advisors to the vendors and Garrigues has been the legal advisor to the operation.

Resa obtained revenues of €46 million in 2016, which represented an increase of 30% with respect to the figure recorded in 2014 (€27 million), when it generated an EBITDA of €26 million. The occupancy ratio of the properties is close to 100%, according to documentation about the company (to which this newspaper has had access) and also according to its ambitious expansion plans for the next decade, which include doubling in size, to achieve a portfolio of around 17,000 beds across Spain.

Resa currently has four projects underway, which will add almost one thousand more beds to its existing supply, in such a way that, in the short term, it will have almost 10,000 beds. To put that in context, the company has seven times more beds than its next largest competitor in Spain (…).

The sale of Resa is the second operation of these characteristics to go ahead in Spain in a year, given that in March last year, the fund Oaktree put Threesixty Developments – formerly Knightsbridge Student Housing – up for sale. It is one of the largest builders and operators of student halls of residence in the United Kingdom, Ireland and Spain, where it has seven projects – five in Madrid and two in Barcelona – which it manages through the Student Housing Company platform and which contain more than 2,600 beds.

Twenty years of experience

(…). Grupo Resa was founded in 1992 and four years later it opened its first hall of residence in Terrasa. (…). Its stock includes accommodation with everything included to the rental of rooms only.

Original story: El Confidencial (by E.S.)

Translation: Carmel Drake

JLL: 3 Large Funds Want To Buy Student Halls In Spain

29 March 2016 – El Economista

Investment funds have been buying real estate in Spain for years and during that time they have acquired the best hotels, skyscrapers and shopping centres in the market. Now that those assets are no longer offering such high returns, investors are starting to look at alternative assets, including student halls of residences.

The US fund Oaktree, through the company Knightsbridge Student Housing, Round Hill Capital and The Student Hotel (TSH) are just some of the players that are currently looking for investment opportunities in this sector, according to Nick Wride, Director of Alternative Investments at JLL.

“For the best assets in operation, yields should be between 6% and 6.5% for the best locations”, says Wride, who recalls that these properties have to generate a higher spread than residential products, because they require more management”. The user is more demanding, there is more rotation and, in many cases, in addition to accommodation, these sites also provide catering services”.

Currently, Knightsbridge Student Housing is the most active firm in Spain. “They saw the opportunity before anyone else and they have led the way for other investors, who are now showing a great deal of interest in these types of assets in the country” explains Wride.

The firm owned by Oaktree currently owns one hall of residence in Madrid with 370 rooms, namely the Galdós hall, located in the Ciudad Universitaria.

At the end of last year, it acquired the Sucesores de Rivadeneira print works, which used to house the former printing press of the Gaceta de Madrid, located on the Cuesta de San Vicente, in the centre of the capital. The project, which will have 350 rooms, has not been started yet but is expected to become operational for the 2018/2019 academic year.

The manager is also preparing to open halls of residences in La Plaza de Cristo Rey (El Faro) and Calle de San Bernardo (Claraval), with 550 rooms, next year and is working on a 500-room project in the historical centre of Alcalá de Henares, which is due to be completed between 2017 and 2018.

The group also has a presence in Barcelona, where it was awarded two concessions by the Administration. Nevertheless, both projects have been suspected due to the hotel moratorium imposed by the mayoress, Ada Colau. (…).

Operation in Barcelona

The Student Hotel, the platform that was acquired by the US fund manager Perella at the end of 2014, is the other firm specialising in the sector that is looking for more projects in Spain. Last year, it participated in an important transaction in Barcelona, where it acquired a portfolio of two halls of residences in the Melon District (Poble-Sec and Marina). Both had belonged to BBVA and contain 597 rooms and 152 parking spaces, as well as around 3,465m2 of adjoining restaurant space in different areas of each building.

According to sources at the time, that operation amounted to almost €45 million. (…).

On the other hand, Nick Wride says that Round Hill Capital is also interested in investing in the country. “They have not made any purchases here yet or developed any projects for students in Spain, but they are looking actively”.

That firm starred in one of the most significant transactions at the European level last year when it sold The Nido Collection to the US firm Greystar Real Estate Partners for €847 million. (…).

Expectation and competition

(…). Nevertheless, halls of residence in Spain often do not comply with the criteria that these investors are looking for. “Funds have to justify movement of capital into a country with large projects, those containing at least 200 rooms. The typical halls found here tend to be smaller and many have double rooms. Now, the trend is increasingly moving towards individual rooms”, says Wride. (…).

Original story: El Economista (by Alba Brualla)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Knightsbridge To Build A New Hall Of Residence In Madrid

29 September 2015 – Expansión

Knightsbridge, the British company specialising in the management of student halls, has bought a former printworks located in the centre of Madrid, with the aim of converting it into a student hall of residence.

Knightsbridge Student Housing has acquired the printwork building on la Cuesta de San Vicente, which used to house the old presses of the publishing company La Gaceta de Madrid, from Sucesores de Rivadeneira, and plans to convert it into a modern hall of residence with 350 bedrooms, as well as study rooms, a gym and leisure space. Knightsbridge made its first acquisition in Spain in 2002 with the purchase of the Galdos halls of residence for more than €20 milllion.

It is currently preparing for the opening of two halls of residence in Madrid, due in 2016, and is also constructing two other student halls in Alcalá de Henares and Barcelona.

Original story: Expansión

Translation: Carmel Drake

Student Halls In Spain: A Wise Alternative Investment?

17 February 2015 – Idealista

When we talk about real estate investment in Spain, we tend to mean the purchase of offices, hotels and shopping centres. Nevertheless, there is another type of property that may also generate high returns: student halls of residences. However, unlike in other European countries, this accommodation does not totally convince investors looking for assets in Spain. The lack of companies that know how to optimise them, and the shortage of the ideal product are some of the reasons why no transactions are being closed in this segment, despite considerable interest.

Spain had around 1.41 million students enrolled in universities during the academic year 2013-2014, according to the Ministry for Education, Culture and Sport. That is, a little over 3% of the Spanish population were university students. This percentage places Spain ahead of other countries such as Germany and France. The majority of these students (77%) studied courses in their home province, but 20% moved to another province to study and around 3% were from overseas.

Delving more deeply into their lifestyle: approximately 64% of university students live at home with their parents or other family members. At the other extreme, those who live away from home only have two options: rent (either in a shared house or on their own) or live in halls of residence. Specifically, only 2.8% choose to stay there.

In the opinion of the experts consulted, these figures are justified by the “very low” availability of public university halls. “Although there are significant cultural differences, certain aspects indicate that the market for university halls of residence in Spain will have to converge with that of the rest of Europe”, says a report published by JLL.

The consultancy firm is convinced by its analysis that the implementation of the Bologna education reforms will promote cross-border studying between European universities, “which tend to have much high percentages of students living in halls”. In Spain, it is normal for students to opt for this type of accommodation during the first and second years only.

“The flow of students travelling to study in other countries will increase over the coming years and not only in relation to Erasmus placements”, says Patricio Palomar, Director of Office Advisory and Alternative Investment at CBRE. In his opinion, issues such as the language (Spanish), the lifestyle and the affordable prices in comparison with neighbouring countries, are just a few of the attractions that draw many foreign students to choose Spain as their destination.

The main drawbacks

Unnim, the entity created from the merger of Cajas de Manlleu, Sabadell and Terrassa, is active in this market. The bank, which was acquired by BBVA in 2011, inherited this line of business from Caixa Terrassa. The former caja constructed its first hall of residence on the Avenida Parallel, 101, in the Poble Sec neighbourhood of Barcelona back in 2007.

According to the latest data available for Unnim, this business line generated a return of 7%. Sources in the sector explain that the net return on these types of assets can reach 10%, well above the rates offered by offices, hotels and shopping centres. In countries such as the UK and USA, this business generates returns of between 11% and 15%.

Juan Manuel Ortega, Director of Investment Offices at JLL, recognises that British firms are over-valuing these types of assets in Spain. These investors are looking for halls of residences that are larger than 5,000 m2 and that have between 60 and 150 rooms. Palomar also acknowledges this trend “the same funds that operate in the UK for example are looking (for opportunities) in Spain. The problem is that the same product is not available in other countries”.

Palomar maintains that student halls in Spain are obsolete and that many of them are stuck in the 1960s. That does not happen in cities such as Amsterdam where student accommodation is modern, hotel-like and less than 10 years old.

Another one of the pitfalls that affects this business is the ownership of these spaces. Most belong to the public universities, many of which have serious financial problems and cannot afford to finance the investment needed to optimise the assets. At the same time, they cannot sell the land and allow private companies to enter the sector.

This has a very direct effect on competition; it is low, which does not lead to an improvement in the facilities either. Similarly, experts recognise that the administration of these complexes is not simple, they require professional management.

Nevertheless, Palomar states that new student halls of residence are appearing in the outskirts of cities and near private business schools. “I think Spain should focus on other kinds of tourism, beyond the holiday market; educational and health tourism (have significant potential)”.

A trickle of transactions

The lethargy in this market is such that transactions are very scarce. The last known deal involved the purchase of the Galdós halls of residence in Madrid in 2012. The British firm, Knightsbridge Student Housing paid €20 million for the property, it was the first acquisition made by the company outside of the UK. Knightsbridge Student Housing was created in 2010 with the backing of Oaktree Capital Management.

Another of the most talked about transactions involved Lazora (Concha Osácar) when it acquired the Resa Group in 2011. Resa was created in 1994 and currently manages more than 8,000 beds in 32 halls of residence. The construction company Acciona also has give halls of residence (in Albacete, Cádiz, Castellón, Lleida and Murcia), which it has tried to sell in the past.

Further proof that this branch of real estate activity in Spain is still light years away from what is happening in other countries, is that Socimis dedicated to student accommodation already exist overseas. In 2013, GCP Student Living constituted the first REIT (Real Estate Investment Trust) in the UK.

Original story: Idealista (by Estefania Fonseca)