Private Companies Start Building VPO Rental Homes Due to Lack of Public Resources

11 June 2019 – Idealista

Housing and the need for public-private partnerships to build affordable homes was one of the hot topics during the recent election campaigns. But the reality is that the public administrations do not have the resources to fund any substantial residential programs.

In addition, Spain has traditionally been a country of homeowners and so most of the few affordable homes that the state has been building have been sold rather than put up for rent. This represents a major problem for the growing population of renters in the country, which some estimate currently account for 23% of total demand, compared with the European average of 34%. The Bank of Spain’s official figure for 2017 was 16%. Regardless, private companies are entering the market to fill the gap.

One such example is Azora, which has been managing social housing for rent since 2004 through its fund Lazora. It estimates that Spain needs 2.5 million mostly affordable rental homes to bring it in line with the European average. That would require an investment of approximately €300 billion over the next few years, a mammoth figure.

Azora actually sold its Lazora portfolio, containing almost 7,000 homes (private and social) to CBRE and Madison in 2018. They committed to continue investing capital in the sector and have already committed more than €200 million in various projects to build 1,200 more homes.

Azora still manages almost 14,000 social and private rental homes across the country and has recently been joined in the sector by the property developer AQ Acentor, the real estate arm of the German fund Aquila Capital. Specifically, AQ Acentor is planning to build 1,450 VPO rental homes in Villaverde, Barcelona, Valencia and Málaga. The numbers are not huge but they will go some way to plugging the gap.

Meanwhile, in the public sector, according to data from the Ministry of Development, 5,167 VPO homes were built in 2018, of which just 353 (6.8%) were dedicated to rental. In 2017, 4,938 VPO homes were constructed, the lowest absolute number since records began, of which 355 (7.1%) were dedicated to rental. Madrid accounted for most of the new VPO homes in 2018 (2,418, of which just 78 were dedicated to rental).

Azora considers that more institutional investment is required to make up for the housing deficit and that “to attract such capital, we need solutions and policies that promote and facilitate the construction of new rental homes”. It remains to be seen whether the politicians can put their ideological differences aside and come up with a clear and consensual housing policy for the benefit of the country at large.

Original story: Idealista (by P. Martínez-Ameida & Ana P. Alarcos)

Translation/Summary: Carmel Drake

Who are Spain’s Largest Residential Landlords?

11 October 2018 – El País

Every month, they receive rent from thousands of tenants who live in the thousands of flats that they own. They are the large landlords of Spain, although it is worth noting one important point: even though between them, they own more than 120,000 residential rental assets, that figure accounts for just 5% of all of the homes on the rental market. In Spain, the stock of rental housing – which exceeds 2.3 million properties, according to calculations from the Ministry of Development – is still dominated by individuals above all. At the other end of the spectrum, that of companies, it is not easy to draw a clear map of who’s who in the Spanish market. There are banks, investment funds, Socimis, real estate companies, servicers, managers…the difference is substantial: some are owners of houses whilst others specialise only in administering the properties.

The properties intersect between these two larges groups. The homes of a bank may belong to a real estate company owned by the entity itself and be administrated by its manager, which in turn, may be responsible for the houses of other companies. Or a fund may own several servicers, the name given to the platforms that, since the crisis, have absorbed a large proportion of the toxic assets (both properties and mortgages) owned by the banks, and that in turn, may be entrusted with the administration of some of the homes by the banks. The examples are simpler if we look at specific cases. What follows is a portrait of the main protagonists of the residential rental market in Spain. Seven companies that control portfolios that come close to or exceed 10,000 assets each, according to figures facilitated by them and by other sources in the sector.

Blackstone. This real estate investment fund is well on its way to becoming the largest owner of rental housing in Spain. It entered the market in 2013 with the purchase of a portfolio of social housing properties that the Town Hall of Madrid, led at the time by Ana Botella, put up for sale. Those 1,860 homes were just the start of a portfolio that now contains around 32,000 properties. Since then, Blackstone has acquired thousands of toxic assets from entities such as Banco Popular and Catalunya Caixa. From the real estate arm of the latter, CX Inmobiliaria, a subsidiary of the US fund emerged, which is now responsible for managing most of its rental homes. Anticipa is a specialist servicer in what is known as “fragmented management”. Its 15,000 homes do not form part of blocks of buildings, but rather they are scattered all over the country. In addition to that portfolio, Fidere manages 6,200 properties. That Socimi (…) was created specifically after the operation was closed with the Town Hall of Madrid and then continued to add other residential assets to its portfolio, which unlike Anticipa’s form part of blocks and urbanisations. The latest blow, in terms of the effect on the market, came last month, with Blackstone’s agreement to purchase 70.01% of Testa. With the control of that Socimi – which until then belonged to Santander, BBVA, Acciona and Merlin – around 32,000 rental assets are now under the orbit of the US fund, making it the largest landlord in Spain.

CaixaBank. Until recently, the Catalan entity was the largest owner of rental homes and it is still in the top three. Unlike the other banks, which succumbed to the pressure to sell to interested investors, the former Caixa owns 27,557 residential rental assets through its real estate arm Building Center. The entity’s own manager, Servihabitat, is responsible for managing those assets, and its portfolio also includes assets entrusted by other owners, taking its total to 42,163 assets. Of those 28,549 are homes (and the remainder are storerooms and parking spaces).

Banco Sabadell. A very similar example to CaixaBank. In this case, the entity’s own servicer, Solvia, is responsible for managing its residential rental assets. Its rental portfolio comprises around 32,000 residential assets and, of those, 74% belong to Sabadell, making it the third largest landlord in Spain with around 23,600 assets.

Haya. In fourth place on the list is the servicer owned by Cerberus. The investment fund created it after acquiring some of Bankia’s real estate portfolio. Then it increased it with purchases from other banks such as Santander. At the end of 2017, based on the most recent data provided by the company, it managed around 14,100 assets.

Azora. This manager administers around 11,000 homes on behalf of other companies and Socimis. Its main clients include Lazora, a company recently recapitalised by CBRE GIP and Madison, which owns 6,800 assets, and Encasa Cibeles, which has 2,500 assets and is owned by the investment bank Goldman Sachs.

Sareb. The (…) bad bank concentrated more than €50 billion in toxic assets during the crisis, including both mortgages and properties. Its objective was, and still is, to divest them, but in the meantime, it has been capitalising what it can. One of the ways is placing some of its properties up for rent. It has more than 10,000 in its portfolio, but it does not manage them directly: it has distributed the management of 5,223 units between Altamira, Haya, Servihabitat and Solvia. The 1,383 that form part of Témpore, a Socimi owned by Sareb, are administered by Azora. Finally, it has around 4,000 that it is reserving for social housing rentals and that it is handing over on a piecemeal basis as one-off agreements are reached with autonomous regions and large town Halls.

Altamira. Another servicer, which belongs to Apollo and Banco Santander. Its rental portfolio comprises 12,500 properties including tertiary assets. Most, around 9,700, are residential assets and belong to Santander or Sareb.

Original story: El País (by José Luis Aranda)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Azora, CBRE GIP & Madison Create a Fund with €750M & 6,500 Homes

10 September 2018 – Expansión

The real estate companies Azora, CBRE GIP and Madison have constituted a joint venture for residential rental properties in Spain. They have created it with 6,458 homes and €750 million in own funds in order to expand the portfolio to 10,000 homes over the next two or three years.

In a statement, the three companies have announced the joint venture agreement, with an initial asset value of €870 million. The fund’s 6,458 homes are located in 65 buildings and 70% of them are located in the metropolitan area of Madrid.

Azora’s new subsidiary for residential rental has emerged from the recapitalisation of another previous one, Lazora. The investment and integral management of the new fund will be borne by Azora, which has also acquired a minority stake in the entity.

The Director for Continental Europe at CBRE Global Investment Partners, Alexander van Riel, said that “the residential market in Spain is very fragmented, and so this portfolio and its size are unique in that it acts as an important consolidator in the sector”.

“This investment increases CBRE GIP’s exposure to the residential sector in Europe to more than €2.5 billion and is in line with our key strategy: to follow demographic and real estate development trends in markets with a scarcity of products”, added Van Riel.

Meanwhile, the co-head of the securities portfolio at Madison International Realty, Derek Jacobson, said that the investment “represents a unique opportunity to acquire a large-scale and high-quality residential portfolio located primarily in the Spanish capital”.

The head of the residential area at Azora, Javier Rodríguez-Heredia, said that the intention is to hold onto the 6,458-rental unit portfolio for 15 years.

“Rather than opting for the liquidation and sale of these units, through this strategic association with CBRE GIP and Madison, we have not only found a way of ensuring that these homes remain available for families, we are also going to increase the investment in the rental products to build a new supply over the long term”, added Rodríguez-Heredia.

CBRE GIP and Madison have been advised by Jones Day, Pérez-Llorca, PwC, Howden, CBRE, Arcadis and Knight Frank, whilst Kempen, Freshfields and Deloitte have advised Lazora.

Last May, Azora postponed its planned debut on the stock market and, in August, its management contract with the real estate firm Hispania was terminated, as a result of which it agreed to receive €224.5 million from Blackstone, which had acquired 74% of Hispania through a takeover.

Original story: Expansión 

Translation: Carmel Drake

From Greystar to GSA, a Who’s Who of Investors in Spain’s Market for Student Residences

27 August 2018

With returns of 5.5%, the student housing market has become the new El Dorado of the real estate market. A long list of foreign funds are beginning to invest in this sector in Spain, and the supply of accommodations is expected to rise by almost 10% up to 2019.

Anglo-Saxon funds and operators dominate the wave of foreign capital that is taking on the market for student residences, one that offers returns of 5.5% in Spain. Just in 2017, investments grew from 50 million to 600 million euros.

The supply of assets in this alternative market has increased by 3.5% since 2015, boasting 93,563 beds in the market at the close of last year. Forecasts expect the sector to grow by another 1.5% this year and up to 7.7% at the end of 2019, according to data from the consultancy JLL. Which are the funds that dominate the sector? And who set to join this latest rush for gold?

The high point of the new wave of international investment in Spain’s resis (student residences) was reached at the end of 2017. Until December, Resa was considered the king of the residential market for university students in the country. It was owned by for years by the firm Lazora (Azora) until the arrival of the joint venture formed by AXA Real Assets and CBRE Global Investment Partners funds, which made an offer for roughly 500 million euros. Subsequently, the company’s 37 assets, distributed among 33 buildings and four undeveloped plots of land, were taken over by the specialised operator Greystar, partner of AXA Real Assets and CBRE GI.

Greystar’s place at the top of the list remains firm, but a long list of other players are vying to take the top spot. The British operators GSA and Collegiate, and the Luxembourg fund manager Corestate all have ambitious plans for growth in Spain.

GSA will invest 300 million euros in new acquisitions in the Spanish market, as reported by EjePrime. The international student-accommodation giant expects to be managing 10,000 beds in Spain within five years’ time. For now, the company has two projects underway in Barcelona, ​​in a total investment of thirty million euros, and is already working on plans to enter the market in Madrid, as well as exploring other cities such as Salamanca along with regional capitals in the south and north of the country.

For its part, Collegiate allied itself with the Spanish group Early Capital at the beginning of the year to enter Barcelona. The operator will manage the student residences at the Finestrelles complex, in Esplugues de Llobregat, acquired by Early last autumn, its third asset after the ones it already owns in Madrid and Valencia. Now, the company is looking for opportunities in Bilbao, Malaga and Granada.

Corestate also flew in from Luxembourg. Like the more than 473,000 university students who arrive every year in the country, searching for accommodation, the fund is looking to enrol in the sector. After beginning work on its first two projects, in Madrid (inauguration in September) and Seville, it is now finalising the purchase of a plot of land on which it is to develop another 400 beds. The manager’s goal is to become one of the top three players in the sector by 2020, with more than a thousand beds spread across the country. The company is already analysing the acquisition of another half a dozen plots of land to attain the goal it set for itself.

The Student Hotel is another of the major European players that have begun to take a close look at Spain. The Dutch operator has announced plans to invest 240 million euros in Spain and has already acquired two assets in Barcelona and will debut its first project in Madrid in 2019.

The Spanish ‘resi’ listed on the MAB

Although much of the capital that is being allocated to the student residence market in Spain comes from abroad, the local players are also looking for their piece of the pie. The Lofttown and Syllabus, a specialised vehicle created by Urbania International, are two clear examples of emerging, local interest in the sector.

Lofttown started its journey in the picturesque neighbourhood of Gràcia in Barcelona. Presided over by Santiago de Cruilles, the company already has two more projects in the Catalan capital in which it invested 24 million euros, EjePrime reported. The company is also analysing a possible debut in other cities around the country, such as Madrid, Girona and Valencia.

For its part, Syllabus is already currently one of the most active investors in the student residence market. Created last April by Urbania, the vehicle expects to invest up to 200 million euros in the development of new student residences in Spain. The company hired the former CEO of Hill International, Jeffrey Sújar, and has already made its first acquisitions, in Valencia and Malaga.

In addition, the university market in Spain is undergoing such a boom that a company that focuses on the market is also listed on the local stock exchange. Student Properties debuted on the Mercado Alternativo Bursátil (MAB) last December. Currently, the company owns a single asset, located in the district of Salamanca in Madrid.

Other possible arrivals

During this year and, above all, the one that is coming, new players are expected to enter the market for university residences. On such arrival is the American giant CA Ventures, which has Spain squarely in its sights within a 500-million-euro European investment plan.

Other institutional investors that are interested in the market include the Belgian group Life, the American investment fund Round Hill and the British operator Amro. The latter is looking for a partner in the national market to invest up to €300 million to create a portfolio of 5,000 beds in southern Europe.

Original Story: EjePrime – Jabier Izquierdo

Translation: Richard Turner

 

Azora Engages UBS to Prepare Its IPO

13 March 2018 – Expansión

Azora wants to take advantage of the investor appetite in the real estate sector and the euphoria on the stock market to make its public debut. The manager, led by Concha Osácar and Fernando Gumuzio, has engaged UBS to prepare its IPO, in an operation that will allow it to raise capital to invest in new assets.

With this move, the company seeks to create a portfolio, primarily, comprising hotels with properties both in Spain, as well as overseas, and to generate returns on the capital invested, taking advantage of opportunities in a bullish market, explain market sources speaking to Expansión.

As a next step, Azora will meet with analysts this week to explain its plans to them. Sources consulted at the manager limited themselves to indicating that the Board of Directors is considering different strategic alternatives, in addition to the creation of new private investment vehicles to accelerate its growth. “In this context, all of the options that would allow us to achieve the company’s objectives are being evaluated. Nevertheless, no specific decisions have been taken yet in this respect”, they add.

Azora has a long track record in the sector and experience in the stock market, given that it manages Hispania, the Socimi in which George Soros holds a stake, which made its stock market debut in March 2014. With more than 200 professionals, it has raised more than €2.2 billion in own funds and has €4.4 billion in assets under management. Specifically, in 2004, it launched its first investment vehicle, Lazora, to invest in homes and student halls in Spain.

Portfolio

The manager used to control, together with Corporación Financiera Alba, the leading operator in the student hall of residence market, Resa, before it sold it in September to a joint venture formed by AXA Investment Managers, CBRE GI and Greystar.

Lazora has become one of the leading specialists in rental housing in Spain with €1.6 billion in assets under management. In the office segment, Azora has invested in buildings in Spain, Poland and the Czech Republic, whilst in hotels, it manages €2.2 billion in assets.

With this move, Azora is set to join other groups that have made their stock market debuts in recent months, such as the property developers Neinor, Aedas and Metrovacesa, as well as those that are planning to do so in the near future, such as the property developer Vía Célere and the financial asset management firm Haya Real Estate.

Original story: Expansión (by Rebeca Arroyo)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Mazabi Prepares To Debut Its Socimi On Stock Market In 2018

12 June 2017 – Expansión

The family property management firm Mazabi is preparing to debut its Socimi – Silicius Inmuebles en Rentabilidad – on the stock market. It plans to list it on the stock exchange at some point next year, with a target valuation of €400 million.

The multifamily office, which was created in 2009 and which currently manages assets worth more than €1,000 million in 14 countries, wants its Socimi to be constituted as an ideal investment vehicle for families interested in obtaining returns from their assets and improving liquidity, as well as for institutional investors interested in obtaining a coupon from their investments.

Silicius was incorporated in 2015 and was registered under the Socimi framework last year. The company, promoted by El Arverjal – a family office owned by the Mencos family – and managed by Mazabi, will debut on the stock market before September 2018.

Currently, Silicius owns assets worth €90 million and generates revenues of around €5 million. It is finalising additional financing amounting to between €20 million and €30 million so that it can undertake new investments before the summer. In parallel, the group is negotiating the contribution to its fund of assets from other partners and the incorporation of investors who will contribute capital depending on the opportunities that are generated.

Incorporation

“The objective is to debut on the stock market with a value of between €200 million and €250 million next year and, once listed, incorporate an individual or institutional shareholder with a placement on the stock market to try and reach the target market capitalisation of €400 million”, explained the CEO of Mazabi, Juan Antonio Gutiérrez.

The Director said that the Socimi’s average debt will be in the order of 25%: “The objective is to pay a coupon and, for that, the level of debt has to be low”.

The company focuses its investments on assets worth between €5 million and €30 million and is currently analysing purchase opportunities amounting to €100 million. “We focus on the segment that private investors can’t afford, but which fall below the level of interest of the funds and large Socimis, which is where there are more opportunities and less competition”, explained Juan Díaz de Bustamente, CEO of the Socimi.

Currently, the firm’s portfolio includes a hotel in Conil (Cádiz), two office buildings in Madrid – one on Calle Obenque and another on Calle Virgen de los Peligros – and four retail assets – including a store leased to Cortefiel on Paseo de la Castellana, 18 (pictured above) and another set of premises leased to Vips on Calle Velázquez 136. It also owns a stake in Lazora.

The company is not going to limit its acquisitions to Spain and will analyse opportunities in the main European capitals. “Our investments have to fulfil three principles: diversification, liquidity and coupon”, they state. Specifically, the company is currently evaluating the possibility of completing an acquisition in Portugal.

The Directors explain that it would be reasonable for 20% of its assets to be located outside of Spain. “You lose the tax effect, but it allows you to diversify geographically”, they add.

Original story: Expansión (by Rebeca Arroyo)

Translation: Carmel Drake