Blackstone Offers €3bn+ for Santander’s Ciudad Financiera HQ

10 September 2018 – El Confidencial

Santander’s Ciudad Financiera, the operating headquarters of the bank chaired by Ana Botín in Boadilla del Monte (Madrid), is being put up for auction five years after its owner, the company Marme Inversiones 2007, owned by several investment funds, filed for bankruptcy. After an arduous legal process whereby the bankruptcy administrator and the court managing the liquidation has released the asset, the central offices of Spain’s largest financial institution have been put on the market in search of a buyer.

According to financial sources close to the process, one of the most interested parties is Blackstone, the US hedge fund that has become Santander’s largest real estate partner after it purchased half of its portfolio of toxic assets last year. The US fund is negotiating the finishing touches for the presentation of its offer for the building where the bank employs almost 7,000 employees, including the office of the President, Ana Botín. According to the same sources, Blackstone is debating whether to participate in the auction by itself or to team up with the other creditors that supported the purchase of the Ciudad Financiera in 2008.

Of those, the presence of ING, HSH Nordbank, CaixaBank and Bayeriche Landesbank stand out, which 10 years ago granted a €1.575 billion loan to Propinvest to acquire Santander’s largest real estate asset on a “leaseback” basis. Other entities also participated in that loan including Deutsche Postbank, Royal Bank of Scotland and Raffeisen Zentralbank, which in 2011 started to sell its stake in the loan to vulture funds at significant discounts on the nominal value, when the owner started to realise that it could not afford to pay the debt.

One of the players that purchased that debt was Blackstone, together with other similar funds, such as Centerbridge and Avenue Capital. According to other sources, those investors are seriously considering submitting a joint offer on 17 September, the date on which the interested parties have to appear before the judge. That date is the one that has been set for the binding offers for all of the assets to be processed. If none are received, which is unlikely, then the Ciudad Financiera will have to be split up and sold off piecemeal.

According to these sources, Blackstone is now the main candidate, after two Arab groups placed tentative offers on the table that never proved successful due to legal wrangling and the lawsuits filed by some of the creditors, such as the Iranian Robert Tchenguiz. The investor, who owns several properties in London and is known for his idle lifestyle, was another person to take advantage of Propinvest’s bankruptcy to acquire debt at low prices and whereby become a significant creditor. Nevertheless, his problems with the Law – he ended up being arrested – have ruled him out of the process to take ownership of all of the Ciudad Financiera.

Arab interest

The player that came very close to acquiring Santander’s headquarters was AGC Equity Partners, a Kuwaiti fund with €3 billion under management, which received approval from Mercantile Court number 9, which was leading the bankruptcy of Marme. But its bid, which amounted to €2.5 billion, now needs to be updated, given that, according to various sources, the debt alone of the special purpose vehicle reached €2.8 billion, including senior and mezzanine. Therefore, the offers must exceed at least €3 billion, which means that this auction is going to turn into one of the largest real estate operations of the year.

The attempt by AEG, which was suspended when Ana Botín exercised the right of first refusal over Ciudad Financiera, came at the same time as the bid from Aabar, a company from Abu Dhabi, owned by IPIC, the owner of Cepsa, now renamed Mubadala. According to those sources, that fund is no longer interested in the auction and Santander has no intention of exercising its preferential right, as acknowledged by official sources at the Spanish entity.

The main attraction of Ciudad Financiera is that Santander, which financed the first operation with a loan amounting to €304.6 million to pay the VAT on the purchase, has committed to remain as the tenant of the property for the next 40 years, which means that the rental income is guaranteed.

Original story: El Confidencial (by Agustín Marco)

Translation: Carmel Drake

JP Morgan Negotiates €2bn Loan with Owner of Santander’s HQ

22 February 2018 – Voz Pópuli

There’s a new player in the complicated game of chess involving the bankruptcy and liquidation of the owner of Banco Santander’s headquarters, the Ciudad Financiera, in Madrid. One of the largest investment banks in the world, JP Morgan, is negotiating a €2 billion loan to unblock the bankruptcy proceedings, according to financial sources consulted by Vozpópuli. JP Morgan declined to comment about the rumours in the market. Market sources indicate that the loan has not been granted yet.

In this way, the US entity would support one of the shareholders, the company Edgeworth Capital, owned by the Iranian businessman Robert Tchenguiz. That banker is trying to get Marme Inversiones 2007, the company that owns the office complex, to emerge from bankruptcy without having to file for liquidation. To this end, it has asked Mercantile Court number 9 in Madrid to give it the green light to negotiate an early termination for payments with the creditors.

That is where JPMorgan comes in. Tchenguiz has managed to convince the entity to consider financing almost €2 billion, which would have to be used to repay all of the creditors, including several banks such as CaixaBank, ING, RBS and Santander itself, as well as funds such as GSO (owned by Blackstone), Canyon, Burlington, Värde Partners, Centerbridge and Monarch.

Many of these creditors, above all the funds that purchased debt at a discount, agree with Tchenguiz. But not the other shareholder, the British magnate Glenn Maud, who is preparing to make a rival offer, or Santander, which is leaning towards the proposal put forward by the Arab fund AGC.

Status of proceedings

After years of bankruptcy and hundreds of resources, the situation is closer than ever to being unblocked. In fact, the court has already given the green light to the liquidation plan for Marme Inversiones 2007. The problem is that two other parent companies, Delma and Ramblas, are still immersed in bankruptcy proceedings. A resolution is expected before the summer.

Unless there is a new legal war, all indications are that the financial situation of the owner of the Ciudad Financiera will be resolved this year.

Along with the proposal from Tchenguiz, the fund AGC and the consortium Madison-Maud-GCA are studying putting between €2.7 billion and €2.8 billion on the table for Santander’s headquarters, within the liquidation process.

Together with JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs is also positioning itself in this operation. It has been advising Santander for months on the solution that may be found to resolve the situation of its headquarters.

Original story: Voz Pópuli (by Jorge Zuloaga)

Translation: Carmel Drake