Cerberus to Buy €5M Portfolio from Santander whilst BdE Reviews its Deal with Sabadell

19 September 2018 – El Confidencial

Banco Santander has chosen a buyer for the last portfolio of toxic assets that it still has on its balance sheet. The chosen entity is Cerberus, the opportunistic fund with which the bank chaired by Ana Botín has been holding exclusive negotiations for the sale of the so-called Apple portfolio, which has a nominal value of €5.1 billion, according to confirmation from sources close to the operation. If the deal is closed, the US entity will be the owner of a large part of the real estate business of Santander, BBVA and Banco Sabadell.

The final agreement depends exclusively on locking down the price that Cerberus is offering and that Santander hopes to obtain. The operation could be closed for a price of between €2.8 billion and €3.2 billion, according to the same sources. Banco Santander declined to make any official comment about this information, just like Cerberus. Debtwire, the specialist medium for professionals in financial markets revealed the name of the US fund as the main candidate to acquire this portfolio on 3 September.

If the exclusive talks prove fruitful, Cerberus will fight off competition from Apollo, Lone Star and Blackstone, the other three vulture funds that have also bid for this portfolio of homes, premises and land that Santander foreclosed in exchange for the non-payment of loans by its clients. In theory, the natural winner of the auction was going to be Apollo, which reached an agreement in principle with the Cantabrian bank at the beginning of August for around €2.9 billion.

Nevertheless, that deal fell apart in the middle of last month, to the anger of the fund led at that time by Andrés Rubio, President of Altamira, the real estate company owned jointly by Apollo and Santander since 2013. Rubio left Apollo in the middle of the transaction, which further weakened that firm’s chances of becoming Santander’s natural partner.

With this operation, Spain’s banks will complete the transfer of the majority of the risk linked to the property sector that they still have left over following the financial crisis. In fact, Santander already sold half of the toxic portfolio that it inherited from Popular last summer 2017 – €30 billion – to Blackstone for around €5 billion. Afterwards, BBVA placed almost €13 billion with Cerberus, whilst Lone Star acquired a portfolio worth €6.7 billion from CaixaBank along with its real estate arm Servihabitat.

The most recent high profile transaction announced was the purchase by Cerberus of €9 million of doubtful assets from Sabadell. Nevertheless, that operation is now being reviewed by the Ministry of the Economy given that the Deposit Guarantee Fund is going to have to recognise losses of around €3 billion as a result. That money will go against the State’s own income statement, given that what the Catalan bank, headquartered in Madrid, has sold to the US fund is the former Caja de Ahorros del Mediterráneo (CAM) portfolio, for which it received an asset protection scheme (EPA) (…).

Original story: El Confidencial (by Agustín Marco)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Juan Pepa: “The Recovery of the RE Sector Has Solid Foundations”

29 June 2018 – Eje Prime

Spain is doing well. At least that is according to the heads of the domestic and international funds that participated in the Square forum, a business meeting that is being held at the moment in Ibiza and which has brought together the leaders of the Spanish real estate sector to discuss new concepts and disruptive models.

Under the slogan “money never stops”, Javier Faus, founder and CEO of Meridia Capital, said at Square that “money will continue to be invested in the Spanish real estate sector for at least the next ten years”.

For the Catalan businessman, real estate is “growing” and he pointed out in a debate about investments at the meeting, moderated by Stephen Newman, the CEO of Savills Aguirre Newman, that “Spain has always been unique: despite the economic crises or threat of Cataluñan independence, and now the change of Government, large funds have always come here to invest”.

Of the same opinion is Juan Pepa, another of the guests at the roundtable organised by Square. Perhaps, the main driver behind the IPO of the property developer Neinor Homes, in his capacity as the former senior director of the fund Lone Star in Spain, Pepa highlighted that “the recovery of the real estate sector has solid foundations”. “You just have to look at the way in which the banks are now lending money in the residential sector: they are being very cautious”, said the now co-Managing Partner of Stoneshield.

In this regard, Faus added that in the market where his corporation dominates the most, the office segment, “we are not going to see rents return to their 2007 levels for another five years”. Therefore, according to the director, there is still scope for growth in a sector that in Barcelona and Madrid is looking very strong, taking advantage of the pull of the economic recovery and the arrival of international companies to the country.

Logistics and alternative assets, the great desires

“Now, everyone wants to invest in logistics”. That is how one international heavyweight committed to Spain summed up the target of the funds. Evan Carruthers, Managing Director of Castlelake, recognises that for his opportunistic fund, those types of assets are not attractive, given that “there is too much money looking for logistics assets”, he said.

His investment firm, which, amongst others, controls the listed property developer Aedas Homes, remains faithful to the residential market, in contrast to the other experts around the table.

For Juan Pepa and his fund, student halls, one of the most sought-after alternative assets at the moment, are very attractive “and so too are logistics assets, but we don’t touch them because we are small”.

In the appeal of halls of residence, the Argentinian business agrees with Brookfield, “the largest real estate company in the world”, according to the Spanish leader Ismael Clemente, CEO at Merlin and one of the promoters behind Square’s debut this year. The Director of Investments in Europe at the US giant, Brad Hyler, added that the problem on the continent is political instability but he did not assess in any detail the Spanish market, where his firm does not yet have a presence.

Those who are investing a lot of capital in Spain, and it seems that they will continue on this path over the coming years, are Latin American property companies and family offices. Pepa said in his intervention that “we will see much more money from Latin Americans investing in the country”.

In his closing comments on the second of three days, Clemente wanted to point out that in a real estate world in which the fashionable term is “to create experiences”, real estate “is, without doubt, the most human productive sector: we create employment and there is a healthy atmosphere between us”.

Original story: Eje Prime (by Jabier Izquierdo)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Fortress Unwinds Its Final Positions In Spain

7 September 2017 – Voz Pópuli

Fortress has definitively closed a chapter in its history in Spain. The US vulture fund, regarded as one of the most aggressive in the world, has launched two operations in the market through which it is looking to offload its final positions in the Spanish financial sector.

The two deals in question are Project San Siro and Project Baresi. In total, they comprise paid and unpaid loans worth around €300 million, according to financial sources consulted by Vozpópuli. The candidates to buy these loan packages include other opportunistic funds.

The two projects essentially comprise the final dregs of the portfolio that Fortress holds in the Spanish banking sector: loans from Santander, Barclays España (now part of CaixaBank) and Lico Leasing, the former finance company of the savings banks that Fortress purchased at the height of the crisis.

The US fund, led in Spain by the banker José María Cava, was one of the first to enter the financial sector at a time when the lack of trust at the international level was at its peak. It was between 2010 and 2011, when the first interventions of the savings banks began and several cold mergers were carried out, which gave rise to groups such as Bankia.

Critical time

Fortress completed its acquisition of a portfolio from Santander in 2012, just before the rescue of the finance sector. In that deal, Fortress purchased €1,000 million in consumer credits from the group chaired by Ana Botín.

A year later, the US fund announced the purchase of Lico Leasing. That was Fortress’ last major operation in Spain, which broke down just two years later. The fund took a long time to obtain authorisation from the Bank of Spain to approve that acquisition, and so by the time it did receive it, the credit tap had been reopened and so Lico arrived late to the recoveries sector.

For that reason, Fortress decided to close this business and its other financial commitments in Spain. First, it sold one of its recoveries platforms (Paratus) to Elliott and Cabot. Next, it sold Geslico to Axactor. And in terms of the other portfolios (Lico, Santander, and Barclays), it let some of them mature and the remainder is what is now being put up for sale.

It also leaves behind other possible opportunities that the fund considered, such as its failed entry into the share capital of Sareb and of other savings banks, with which it was unable to reach an agreement due to the significant price differences. Fortress is now more focused on other business niches in Spain and most notably in the Italian market, where it purchased, together with Pimco, the largest portfolio of loans, worth €17,000 million, from Unicredit last year. Given its profile, the Spanish banking sector will become the focus of Fortress once again when the next crisis hits.

Original story: Voz Pópuli (by Jorge Zuloaga)

Translation: Carmel Drake