Lugo’s Only 5-Star Hotel Goes up for Auction for c. €5M

16 May 2018 – El Confidencial

It has been closed for four years and weeds are spreading uncontrollably across the estate. The only luxury five-star hotel in Lugo has gone up for auction for just over €5 million – the auction price includes the hotel’s furniture and a chapel in two separate lots – as part of the liquidation plan that is being followed since Mercantile Court number 12 of Madrid ruled against its owner, Alvaher 98. That company purchased the property in 2007 and built on the ruins of what used to be the Palacio del Conde de Lemos. Alberto Vázquez wanted to turn around his business activity, which focused on meat products and recover this historical and artistic gem, which originally belonged to the López de Lemos family and which had been abandoned since the beginning of the 20th century.

The bidding has now concluded with a single bidder offering €2.4 million for the hotel, below the €4.7 million auction price. As such, we will have to wait and see whether the court authorises the sale or not, given that it would not cover the debt. Meanwhile, in the other lots, €60,000 has been offered for the furniture, compared with an auction value of €450,000, and €6,000 has been offered for the chapel, above the auction value of almost €1,800.

The Hotel Palacio de Sober, whose refurbishment cost several million euros – most of which came from public funds – is also the oldest civil architecture building in Galicia, the largest estate in the autonomous region, and its chapel dates back to the 7th century. A year ago, the same court opened a sales process for possible interested parties to bid, and although several companies expressed their interest, no firm offer was submitted. Now, as part of the liquidation process of the owner company, its fate is being put to the test through a public auction (…).

The property has several financial charges, including a mortgage in favour of the Galician Institute for Economic Development (‘Instituto Galego de Promoción Económica’ or Igape), the public entity that backed the project to open the hotel at the time through loans and subsidies, as well as embargoes for non-payments to the Social Security department.

Located in the south of the province of Lugo in a natural setting, 10km from Monforte de Lemos and 38 km from Ourense, it opened its newly renovated doors in 2010 (…). It had 43 super-luxury rooms, all of which measure more than 25 m2 (…).

The price per room used to cost no less than €300 per night for the cheapest rooms, whilst sleeping in one of the suites cost upwards of €750 (…).

At the beginning of 2012, just two years after its inauguration (…), the Palacio de Sober stopped receiving guests and it definitively closed its doors in March 2014 (…). In February 2015, the owner company was declared bankrupt (…).

Original story: El Confidencial (by E. Sanz)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Argia’s Bankruptcy Leads to Oviedo’s Largest Ever Land Auction

10 December 2017 – El Comercio

The bankruptcy of the property developer owned by the businessman Blas Herrero, Argia Inversiones Inmobiliarias, and the lack of interest in most of its assets from its banker, Liberbank, have made way for the city’s largest-ever auction of private land. In total, 159 lots worth more than €30 million will go under the hammer, ranging from buildable estates in Cerdeño, to buildable land in Prados de la Fuente, to around fifty finished homes also in Prados de la Fuente.

In reality, the investments are very recent. Herrero did not seek to obtain any returns from the land and housing sectors in Spain until 2005 when he took control of Inverural Capital and turned it into Argia Inversiones Inmobiliarias. After a few years of activity, the company stopped filing its annual accounts – in 2009 – and went off the radar.

In Oviedo, the firm had promoted one of the largest plots of land in Prados de la Fuente, under the commercial name Galana Residencial. The work on that group of buildings…did not go well…The first buyers reported problems with the finishes, as well as humidity in the garages and the poor quality of the padel court.

Eight years after the homes were handed over, 51 apartments in different parts of the development are now going on the market, with appraisal values ranging from €155,484 for a first floor 3-bedroom property to €250,000 for homes that are bigger and higher up (…).

House prices in the city of Oviedo in Q3 2017 amounted to €1,264/m2, according to the appraisal company Tinsa. In YoY terms, they rose by 1.5%, but the number of transactions was still very low and, in 2016, prices fell by 0.8% in YoY terms. Since the middle of 2008, each homeowner in Oviedo has lost 37% of his/her property value, on average (…).

Volatility and low returns are two of the factors that have ended up causing the Asturian businessman Blas Herrero to surrender his real estate ambitions just ten years after launching them and after more than five years of unremarkable activity. In 2015, Argia Inversiones Inmobiliarias filed for voluntary creditors’ bankruptcy. The liquidation plan…was approved in January.

A peaceful end is anticipated with the voluntary auction that is due to be held on 20 December. The 159 lots, which will be bid for independently, include some mortgage charges in favour of Liberbank, who has most at stake in terms of the success of these disposals (…).

Prices and lots

The data is not encouraging. In the last year – between July 2016 and June this year – 633 homes were sold across the whole of Asturias (…). The figures indicate that the crisis is still on-going. A decade ago, the General Council of Notaries recorded three times as many real estate transactions per year. Moreover, some of the lots are far from the reach of most (…). Specifically, three plots from the special plan are together worth €10.5 million (…).

Original story: El Comercio (by Gonzalo Díaz-Rubín)

Translation: Carmel Drake