21 June 2018 – Voz Pópuli
CaixaBank is getting serious with the digestion of its real estate. The Catalan bank has just closed its first major divestment of 2018 and is analysing another possible large-scale operation to be completed in the second half of the year, according to financial sources consulted by Vozpópuli.
The sale that has just been announced is Project Ágora, a €650 million portfolio whose transfer has been agreed with Cerberus. According to the same sources, the US fund and CaixaBank have already signed a pre-agreement and are now negotiating the small print of the deal. Cerberus could pay around €200 million, according to market estimates.
Project Ágora comprises around 150 unpaid loans from large companies backed by retail premises, offices, industrial land and residential assets.
Following this sale, the market is expecting CaixaBank to close a macro-operation during the second half of the year. The repurchase of Servihabitat, announced two weeks ago, is seen as a preliminary step, since that is what Santander did with Aliseda before it sold Popular’s real estate to Blackstone.
The sources consulted indicate that no process is underway yet, although the entity is reportedly working on some numbers and doing some preparation work in that regard. The entity led by Gonzalo Gortázar (pictured above) is being advised by consultancy firms, including KPMG. The Madrilenian banker wants to know whether undertaking an operation such as Quasar (Popular-Blackstone) or Marina (BBVA-Cerberus) will require it to recognise any new provisions.
CaixaBank has €14 billion in foreclosed assets on its balance sheet, worth €5.8 billion. That represents a discount of 58%, according to its accounts for the first quarter. Santander sold Popular’s real estate at a discount of 67% and BBVA sold its assets at a discount of 62% (…).
Gortázar’s team wants to avoid the market fixating on CaixaBank following the sales undertaken by Santander and BBVA, and the operations that Sabadell has underway.
The commitment from Cerberus
With Project Ágora, Cerberus is continuing to grow its real estate business in Spain. The fund led in Spain by BBVA’s former Finance Director, Manuel González-Cid, already purchased a portfolio from CaixaBank at the end of last year – Project Egeo – and is completing the purchase of 80% of BBVA’s real estate for €4 billion. For this, the comments to be issued by the Deposit Guarantee Fund (FGD) in the next few weeks will be critical.
In addition to the portfolios that it has been buying, Cerberus has a large part of its Spanish real estate interests in Haya Real Estate. After trying, unsuccessfully, to debut that entity on the stock market before the summer, the fund is negotiating its key contract and/or a possible acquisition of assets with Sareb. The fund certaintly has a great deal at stake with that operation.
Original story: Voz Pópuli (by Jorge Zuloaga)
Translation: Carmel Drake