Property Developers Start Buying Land Without Building Permits

11 October 2017 – Real Estate Press

Overseas real estate funds, with a major presence in the Spanish real estate market, are owners of large portfolios of land as well as of debt secured by land as collateral, and many are operating in association with Spanish property developers.

The estimates for this year indicate that 80,000 new homes will be built in total.

The funds Blackstone, Cerberus, Kennedy Wilson, TPG, Värde Partners and Apollo started to acquire servicers, created by the banks, when the real estate sector began to recover. Other funds, such as Lone Star, Centerbridge, HMC, Eurostone, Aquila, Oaktree, Castlelake, Värde and Pimco, have been backing residential development. In this way, they have become the new residential property developers that need land as their raw material.

Now, unlike in prior years, no one wants to risk buying land that still needs some kind of building permit approval to turn it into buildable land, due to the risks involved, and that is why the price of buildable land is rising.

Funds were able to acquire land in areas with high demand for housing, such as Madrid, País Vasco, Barcelona, the Costa del Sol and the Alicante coast, at low prices before residential activity started to recover. But over the last year, land prices have also been recovering in other large capital cities, such as Valencia, Zaragoza, Sevilla and Málaga.

Nevertheless, the potential that these entities see in the residential development segment has allowed them to reduce the urban planning risk in more mature markets, such as Madrid and Barcelona, until now, and start to place their focus on plots that still have not received building permit approval. Moreover, there is no shortage of people who are demanding that the administrations adopt their expansive urban planning policies once again.

Original story: Real Estate Press

Translation: Carmel Drake

Catella: RE Inv’t Rose By 60% During First 8 Months To €7,061M

25 September 2017 – Expansión

The Spanish real estate market is still a magnet for investment at the global level. In this way, during the 8 months to August, investment in tertiary real estate assets (in other words, non-residential properties) rose to €7,061 million. That volume is 62% higher than the figure registered during the same period in 2016, according to data from the consultancy firm Catella (…).

By type of properties, commercial assets accounted for 45% of the total investment, with a volume of more than €3,200 million, up by 52% compared to the first eight months of 2016. In fact, that figure already exceeds the amount recorded for last year as a whole and is very close to the record investment made in 2007, when commercial assets worth more than €3,590 million were sold, according to sources at the consultancy firm.

Of that amount, investment in shopping centres accounted for 60% of total retail investment, amounting to €1,929 million. The figure is explained by the completion of major operations, such as the purchase of Xanadú, in Arroyomolinos (Madrid), on which Intu Properties spent €530 million; and the operation involving Nueva Condomina, in Murcia, which Klépierre purchased for €233 million.


Large assets were not the only retail assets to spark interest: high-street premises were also on investors’ radars. As such, €711 million was spent on that type of property between January and August, with highlights including operations such as the purchase of Preciados 9, the future flagship Pull & Bear store in the centre of Madrid, by Generali for €98 million. Meanwhile, investors spent another €516 million on retail parks and supermarkets, with the operation involving a portfolio of nine retail parks leading the way – the South African investor Vukile spent €193 million on that purchase.

In the case of offices, investment increased by 46% to reach €1,512 million. “The Boston portfolio – comprising 14 office buildings located in Barcelona, Madrid and Valencia – owned by BBVA and acquired by Oaktree for €180 million has been the most important transaction so far this year. In Madrid, the most significant transaction saw the acquisition of the Manoteras business park by Tristan Capital (€103 million), whilst, in Barcelona, the most high-profile deal has been the purchase of Torre Agbar by Merlin Properties (€142 million”, say sources at Catella.

During the first 8 months of 2017, hotel purchases rose by 25% to reach €1,760 million, thanks to operations such as the one involving Edificio España, for €272 million, as well as the purchase starring the international fund London & Regional (which acquired four hotels located on the coast and islands for €240 million), as well as others involving Starwood and KKR.

Moreover, the logistics sector has not been left behind in terms of the increase in investment. Between January and August, that segment saw investment grow by 31% to reach €575 million. (…). In this area, the most significant operation has been the sale of GreenOak’s portfolio to P3 Logistics Park for €243 million.

Whilst retail assets were the star product by type of property, international funds continued to be the undisputed stars in terms of buyer profile.

Between January and August, funds accounted for 42% of the total volume invested; whilst real estate companies represented 28% of the total (…). Meanwhile, the Socimis, who were the most active investors in 2014 and 2015, have seen their share of the cake decrease to 11% so far this year.

“On the other hand, core investors have returned to the market, with the acquisition of prime properties located in Madrid and Barcelona. Insurance companies, family offices and other institutional investors have purchased assets such as offices and retail premises in Madrid, with yields of around 3%”, said Carlos López, Partner at Catella.


“…We expect 2017 to be a record-breaking year, with an investment volume of around €10,000 million, compared to the figures of more than €8,500 million in tertiary investment in 2016”, says López (…).

Original story: Expansión (by Rocío Ruiz)

Translation: Carmel Drake

The Socimis Consolidate Their Positions As RE Kings

1 April 2016 – Cinco Días

When the Socimis began to emerge timidly in 2014, few thought that they would become the key and crucial factor behind the change in the real estate cycle in Spain. The four largest companies alone, excluding the dozen other companies listed on the Alternative Investment Market, have managed to double the value of the properties that they own in the last year, to take the total to €9,235 million.

The key behind this change has been two-fold. Firstly, the acquisition that the Socimi Merlin Properties closed last year, of Testa from Sacyr, which doubled its size. Secondly, the large number of international funds that have relied on these Spanish managers to enter the domestic real estate market, where opportunities are now arising after the tough years of the property crisis.

Socimis are a type of company that is exempt from paying corporation tax in exchange for having the obligation to distribute dividends each year. Their structure is similar to the more established Anglo-Saxon REITs, which control properties that are leased out (offices, shopping centres, hotels..). The most obvious risk is that they drive up the prices of these kinds of assets, because they set short-term timeframes for investing the money they raise from investors.

Merlin Properties

The largest of these companies in Spain is Merlin Properties, chaired by Ismael Clemente, an experienced former director of Deutsche Bank. This Socimi has managed to sneak into the crème de la crème of the business world by listing on the Ibex 35 since the beginning of the year. Almost all of the funds that control its capital are international, with very diluted individual shareholdings. The largest block belongs to BlackRock, which owns a 5% stake.

(…). Merlin’s portfolio amounts to €6,052 million, and comprises offices (36%), retail premises (31%), shopping centres (11%), hotels (6.6%) and residential assets for lease (4.8%). (…). In December, the entity announced that it expects to issue bonds with a BBB rating. The company currently has a market capitalisation of approximately €3,370 million.


Thanks to its partnership with Barceló, Hispania has become another one of the major players in the sector. (…). In total, Hispania now owns properties amounting to more than €1,425 million, comprising hotels (59%), offices (29%) and residential properties (12%). (…).

The multi-millionaire George Soros owns 16% of the company, meanwhile John Paulson owns a 9.9% stake. (…).

Lar España

One of Lar España’s most recent operations has been the announcement that it will invest €145 million in the construction of Sevilla’s largest shopping centre. The Socimi, managed by Grupo Lar, has gradually specialised in these types of assets, which now account for almost 70% of its business volume.

The company is currently listed with a market capitalisation of €340 million. Its other assets include a small residential portfolio (7%), as well as logistics assets (8%) and office buildings (17%).

Axiare Patrimonio

The company is led by Luis López de Herrera-Oria, a veteran in the real estate sector (…). Its shareholders include several funds – also international – such as Citigroup, Deutsche Bank, Gruss, JP Morgan Chase, Perry Partners and Pelham Capital.

It has doubled its portfolio of assets in the last year to €859 million, thanks to the appreciation in the value of its assets and new acquisitions. 72% of its portfolio relates to offices and 15% comprises logistics assets.

Original story: Cinco Días (by Alfonso Simón Ruiz)

Translation: Carmel Drake

JLL: Global Inv’t In Hotel RE Reached €38,590M In H1 2015

18 August 2015 – Cinco Días

Hotels have become a very desirable haven for investors. Private and sovereign funds and hotel chains are all committed to boosting these purchases. In fact, according to a report by the real estate consultancy JLL, a “new historical high” was reached during the first half of 2015, as acquisitions amounted to €37,590 million.

“All indications show that 2015 is going to be a record year for hotel transactions at the global level”, says JLL in a statement, “driven by significant overseas investment”. During the first half of 2015, the largest volume of transactions was recorded on the American continent, with €21,490 million changing hands in total – that figure reflected an increase of no less than 73% YoY. Next in the ranking was EMEA (Europe, the Middle East and Africa), with an increase of 55% to €13,430 million.

The consultancy had predicted that the volume of transactions in the hotel sector would amount to €60,870 million in 2015. “We have already reached 60% of that figure during the first half of the year, and so if the level of activity continues into the second half of the year, then we may actually exceed our original forecast”, say JLL.

“The clear improvement in the main hotel markets in Europe and USA, the general economic recovery and the availability of debt with interest rates at historical lows are some of the drivers behind the increase in the level of investment at the global level in 2015, strengthening the trend that began in 2013”, explains Carlos Ortega, Vice-President of the JLL Hotels & Hospitality Group.

Although US private equity firms continue to be the main source of capital, the number of transactions involving investors from mainland China and the Middle East increased significantly during the first half of 2015 – their contribution to the global hotel real estate sector amounted to €8,775 million, compared with €2,060 million a year earlier.

The major transactions closed so far this year have involved several sovereign funds, such as the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, which acquired the Grand Hyatt in Hong Kong, the Reinaissance Harbour in the same city, and the Edition in New York. The largest sale was closed by the hotel chain Hilton, which sold the Walforf Astoria in Manhattan for €1,745 million.

These investors are looking for trophy businesses, in other words, iconic buildings in large cities that guarantee high returns and have secure customer bases. “Europe, with Paris and London as the major capital cities, continues to be one of the best destinations for agreements involving trophy assets, and hence is where the Middle Eastern sovereign funds continue to show most interest”, says Ortega.

Original story: Cinco Días (by Alfonso Simón Ruiz)

Translation: Carmel Drake

RE Megaprojects Return To The Costa Del Sol

27 July 2015 – Málaga Hoy

The property market on the Costa del Sol is showing signs of recovery. After years of crisis and turmoil in the construction sector, domestic and international investors are putting their faith in the region once again as they undertake new developments and generate profits. In the last three months, three large million-euro initiatives have been launched in Estepona, Marbella and Mijas, together with others, on a smaller scale, along other parts of the coast.

In Estepona, the company Ikasa has announced that it will invest €205 million in the construction of 400 luxury homes in an urbanisation that will be called ‘Panoramia Estepona’. It will be built over eight years, in a series of phases that will depend on the behaviour of the market; work will begin on the first phase this summer. (…).

The second mega-project is in Marbella and will involve the injection of €150 million from one of the largest US investment funds, for the construction of 200 luxury homes next to the Santa Clara Golf urbanisation. The first of the four phases could be completed by the end of the year and will include the creation of 20 independent villas, each with its own exclusive design, styled under the supervision of six of the country’s leading architects and with prices that will range between €900,000 and €2.5 million. 70% of the units in this development have been sold in just one month. And this is just the first of several projects that the developer Urbania International is planning in the area. (…).

Finally, last Monday, the company Taylor Wimpey España announced that it will invest €21 million on the construction of 48 apartments and 55 terraced houses in La Cala Resort, in Mijas, over the next five years, mainly aimed at foreign customers. (…)

In the international real estate market, Marbella portrays an image of quality, exclusivity, privacy and security. It is not surprising that the most luxurious private urbanisation in Europe, La Zagaleta, ended 2014 with a record turnover of €40 million and a three-fold increase in its profits compared with the previous year. So much so that the stock of newly constructed properties on the site has now dried up, and so plans are afoot for the construction of six new villas in 2016, which will have prices of between €8 million and €15 million.

The Costa del Sol is a gold standard, but the experts insist that the local and provincial administration must be more efficient in their bureaucratic management to secure continued investment and ensure greater legal security. (…).

Who are the buyers of these luxury homes?

Most of the buyers are foreigners, but “they are no longer seeking out the bargain that they thought they were going to find in years gone by”, says Pía Arrieta Morales, Partner at the real estate company Diana Morales Properties – Knight Frank. (…)

Kristina Szekely, Director of the real estate company that bears her name says that clients with less cash to invest are mainly looking for apartments with a price tag of between €200,000 and €300,000, not far from the beach, but not necessarily within the Golden Mile. Whereas, those with more capital prefer residences of between 800m2 and 2,500 m2, with an average value of €2.5 million, located in the Golden Triangle, including in La Zagaleta. But customer preferences are also a question of culture. “Russian and Arabs look for large, light-filled spaces, whilst Scandinavians prefer quiet places with views that are not necessarily overlooking the sea”.

Ricardo Arranz, the President of the Andalucían Federation of Town Planners and Residential Tourism added that the three most important factors for buyers on the Costa del Sol at the moment are: the best climate in Europe, security and infrastructure. There is a special emphasis on the integration of foreign residents with the opening of 12 international schools with pupils from 42 different nationalities in the Golden Triangle alone. Arranz notes that more than 30,000 homes worth more than €1 million have been constructed and sold in this area and another 35,000 homes that are worth between €400,000 and €600,000. (…).

Original story: Málaga Hoy (by A. Recio and E. Moreno)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Bankia Puts 40 Large Property Loans Up For Sale

7 April 2015 – Expansión

Project Commander / The bank is holding negotiations with opportunistic funds regarding the transfer of real estate loans worth €500 million.

Bankia is causing a storm amongst large overseas funds in 2015. The entity chaired by José Ignacio Goirigolzarri recently announced two large divestments aimed (precisely) at those investors; they are pioneering due to the types of assets that they include: one contains overdue mortgages and the other contains large loans to real estate companies.

In total, Bankia has put unpaid property-related loans up for sale amounting to €1,800 million. Through this strategy, the bank is seeking to reduce its balance of doubtful loans and to continue awarding real estate assets.

The most advanced transaction (in terms of progress) is the one involving the large loans (to real estate companies). Project Commander, the name of the deal being advised by Deloitte, includes 170 loans granted to 39 companies, worth more than €500 million. Of those companies, 31 are property developers and almost all of them have filed for bankruptcy or liquidation, according to sources at the overseas funds. Some of the loans were granted to companies such as the Catalan group Promociones Habitat, the same sources reported.

Exposure to land

Most of the loans are syndicated and bilateral and provide access to a wide range of assets. These include land – €200 million – most of which is rural; and industrial warehouses – €90 million -. The fund(s) that win(s) the bid will also be in a position to take ownership of office buildings, homes, a fully operational aparthotel and even a winery.

Along with the real estate assets, a small portion of the portfolio is backed by pledged shares and other types of economic rights in creditor bankruptcy.

Almost two thirds of the real estate portfolio is located in Castilla-La Mancha – mainly Toledo -, Andalucía and Cataluña.

According to the agreed timetable, the funds must present their final offers within the next two weeks and the transaction should close before the end of the month. Sources close to the process indicate that Bankia may obtain between €150 million and €200 million for Project Commander.

To secure the deal, many of the large funds have purchased real estate platforms during the last two years: Apollo (Altamira), Cerberus (Haya Real Estate), Blackstone (Anticipa), TPG (Servihabitat), Lone Star (Neinor), Centerbridge (Aktua) and Värde Partners-Kennedy Wilson (Aliseda).

These investors have already participated in some of the large real estate loan purchases. Blackstone purchased the largest portfolio ever transferred in Spain to date, Project Hercules, which comprised problematic mortgage loans from Catalunya Banc amounting to almost €6,500 million; and, more recently, Blackstone acquired a non-performing property developer loan portfolio from CaixaBank. Meanwhile, Lone Star purchased a loan portfolio from Eurohypo for €3,500 million.

Nor does the market rule out the emergence of new players such as Pimco, Chenavari and Deutsche Bank.

Meanwhile, yesterday Fitch increased the rating of Bankia’s mortgage bonds by one notch to A-.

Original story: Expansión (by Jorge Zuloaga)

Translation: Carmel Drake