Blackstone Prepares a Series of Portfolio Sales Following its 6-Year Spending Spree

27 March 2019 – El Confidencial

The US fund Blackstone, which has been so busy on the buy side in recent years, is getting ready to put the for sale sign up, over some of its assets at least. It is preparing the sale of several portfolios, including the Socimi Corona, the homes of Fidere and also some of the former assets of Popular that it acquired from Santander.

Several sources have confirmed that the US fund is currently designing portfolios for sale in order to rotate some of the €20 billion in property that it now owns in Spain. Most of the portfolios are expected to be small, between €50 million and €300 million, although the fund is reportedly also working on some larger deals that could reach €600 million. The plan is to put the portfolios on the market before the summer.

Blackstone’s target market includes pension funds and insurance companies, which operate with lower costs of capital and which, therefore, can afford to pay more. It already trialled that strategy with the sale of Hispania’s offices to Zurich, to great success. But Blackstone will also target other funds looking to grow or complement their existing investments.

Despite this vendor activity, the US giant is still committed to buying assets in Spain. It simply wants to rotate its most mature assets, given that it started making investments in the country in 2013.

Original story: El Confidencial (by R. Ugalde and J. Zuloaga)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Blackstone to Raise €8bn for its European Real Estate Fund

25 March 2019 – Idealista

The US fund Blackstone wants to raise funds to continue growing in Europe. The fund manager expects to secure up to €8 billion for its next European real estate fund, which is going to be called Blackstone Real Estate Partners Europe VI.

The new vehicle’s investments will have tickets starting from €75 million and will include portfolios of properties and corporate operations as the target assets.

Spain is very much on Blackstone’s radar following its purchase of 51% of Popular’s real estate business from Santander for €5.1 million, in one of the largest operations signed last year.

Moreover, the fund has purchased the property of CatalunyaCaixa, the shares of Hispania (including its large hotel portfolio) and the shares of Testa, the rental home company.

Original story: Idealista 

Translation/Summary: Carmel Drake

Spain’s Banks Plan to Sell Real Estate Worth €12.5bn+ over the Next 2 Years

19 November 2018 – El Economista

The banks have set themselves the deadline of 2020 to reduce the property that remains on their balance sheets to an absolute minimum. On the basis of the strategic plans set out by Bankia, Liberbank, Ibercaja and the portfolio of commercial premises put up for sale by Santander, the entities are planning to divest at least €12.5 billion in non-performing assets over the next 24 months.

At this stage, we do not yet know which objectives CaixaBank will set itself in this regard; the entity will unveil its new strategic plan in London on 27 November. Meanwhile, the entity led by Ana Botín has delayed the presentation of its new objectives to the beginning of next year, as it awaits the evolution of the outcome of the elections held in Brazil in October. The exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union, which must take place in March, is also important for the group.

Spain’s entities have accelerated the divestment of their real estate in a frantic fashion over the last 15 months. This summer, Banco Sabadell sold four portfolios of non-performing assets for a combined gross value of €12.2 billion. Those operations allowed the entity to fulfil in one fell swoop the objective that it had set itself in its Strategic Plan 2018-2020 to reduce its non-performing assets by €2 billion per year.

At the end of the third quarter of this year, the entity led by Josep Oliu held €13.62 billion in toxic property left on its balance sheet, nevertheless, once the sales undertaken this summer have been completed, that exposure will be reduced by almost half to €7.67 billion, most of which comprises doubtful loans. The exposure of foreclosed assets has been reduced to around €1.2 billion.

Orderly reduction

With respect to Bankia, in its Strategic Plan to 2020, the entity projected an annual reduction in non-performing assets of €2.9 billion, which would result in the clean-up of €8.7 billion over three years. The bank chaired by José Ignacio Goirigolzarri has divested €2.4 billion during the first three quarters of this year, according to its latest accounts at the end of September, which means that it needs to sell only another €500 million during the final quarter (…).

In the same way, Liberbank closed the third quarter of the year with gross non-performing assets amounting to €3.6 billion, 25% less than it held a year ago. The bank has set itself the objective of leaving €1.7 billion on its balance sheet by the end of 2020, in other words, €1.9 billion less than it currently has.

Finally, Ibercaja, which also unveiled its objectives to 2020 in March, announced its plans to reduce its toxic assets by 50% in three years, which would mean decreasing the balance by around €1.85 billion.

15 months of sales

Santander fired the starting gun on this race with the sale of 50% of Popular’s property to Blackstone, in an operation announced in August last year. Since then, the largest sale by the bank was a portfolio of flats and garages to Cerberus in September, for a purchase price of around €1.535 billion. Thus, the bank still has a second portfolio of foreclosed assets up for sale with a gross value of around €2.4 billion (…).

The most active investment funds to purchase portfolios over the last few months have been Cerberus, Blackstone and Lone Star. Between then three of them, they have made acquisitions of foreclosed assets and doubtful loans from the Spanish banks and Sareb amounting to €48 billion (…).

Original story: El Economista (by Eva Díaz)

Translation: Carmel Drake

CPPIB, doBank & Haya Compete for Altamira

14 November 2018 – Cinco Días

The sector of real estate servicers for assets proceeding from the banks is in flux. The latest process in the market to catch the attention of major funds and operators in the sector involves Altamira, the firm controlled by the manager Apollo, which owns 85% of the company, and Santander (15%). The first entity to make a major bid has been its competitor Haya Real Estate (owned by Cerberus), as published by Cinco Días on 8 November. That offer has now been joined by one from CPPIB, the Canadian Pensions Fund and one of the largest investors in the world.

Another player interested in Altamira Asset Management, according to financial sources, is the Italian firm doBank, formerly UniCredit Credit Management. That listed entity is controlled by Fortress. It is the largest doubtful loan manager in the transalpine country. Meanwhile, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) is a fund that manages the pensions of 20 million Canadian people, with assets worth €245.7 billion.

Altamira was created by Santander as a servicer for its toxic assets linked to property. In 2013, the bank sold 85% of the entity to the US fund for just under €700 million. Five years later, the manager from New York, which has not managed to star in any of the major bank portfolio purchases, has decided to exit the company. The amount of the operation, a sales process that has been entrusted to Goldman Sachs, is expected to exceed €600 million.

Altamira has become one of the large managers of financial and real estate assets in Spain, with a total volume of assets under management of €53.8 billion compared with €26 billion at the end of 2014, and with more than 82,000 properties, on behalf of around fifteen clients.

In recent months, there has been significant movement in the shareholders of these servicers, in large part linked to the sale of the bank portfolios. If Cerberus, through Haya, manages to acquire Altamira, it will be the third entity that the US fund controls, after Haya and Divarian (formerly Anida, linked to BBVA). The idea of the fund is to integrate it with Haya to relaunch that firm’s debut on the stock market, as reported by this newspaper. Blackstone, in turn, controls Aliseda (previously owned by Popular) and Anticipa. Lone Star acquired Servihabitat (formerly owned by La Caixa) this summer, and Sabadell has also put Solvia up for sale, another servicer that also interests Cerberus.

Original story: Cinco Días (by Alfonso Simón Ruiz & Pablo Martín Simón)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Project Newton: Bankia Puts €450M Toxic Asset Portfolio Up for Sale

21 September 2018 – Voz Pópuli

The insatiable appetite of the opportunistic funds for Spanish property is never ending and the banks are taking advantage to reduce their exposure to real estate assets and whereby clean up their balance sheets. The latest to come to the market is Bankia, which has put a €450 million portfolio up for sale comprising primarily property developer loans, although Project Newton, as the operation has been baptised, also includes a small proportion of foreclosed assets, according to financial sources consulted by Vozpópuli.

Newton’s sale is expected to be completed this year and will be followed by two other asset portfolios that the bank plans to sell soon, according to reports from Bloomberg. The operations disclosed by the US agency include a €1,500M portfolio comprising unpaid mortgages and a €2,000M portfolio comprising foreclosed assets.

At the end of the first half of the year, the entity chaired by José Ignacio Goirigolzarri held €15.2 billion in toxic assets, after reducing its balance by €1.7 billion between the months of January and June.

Strategic plan

With the sale of the three aforementioned portfolios before the end of the year, the bank would more than exceed its annual objective in terms of asset sales, which amounts to €2.9 billion per year for the next three years. In fact, if Bankia divests all three portfolios, its real estate exposure would decrease to €11.25 billion, and so it would follow in the footsteps of the other entities that have accelerated the sale of these types of assets in the last year.

The most recent example is Santander, which on Wednesday closed the sale to Cerberus of a portfolio of properties worth around €2.79 billion with a 45% discount. The initial perimeter of the operation was €5.1 billion, but in the end, the commercial premises and land that had been included in Project Apple were left out of the final portfolio.

The entity already transferred Popular’s property last year to a joint venture with Blackstone, and so its real estate exposure will decrease to around €7.3 billion once the Apple sale is completed.

Meanwhile, BBVA, which also sold €13 billion in foreclosed assets to Cerberus, has entrusted the sale of €2.5 billion in problem loans to Alantra. That operation will reduce the real estate exposure of the bank chaired by Francisco González to almost zero.

Moreover, Sabadell and CaixaBank have also completed significant operations in recent months. The former sold €9.1 billion in foreclosed assets to Cerberus, whilst the latter divested almost all of its real estate business: €12.8 billion in real estate assets, which were acquired by Lone Star.

In this way, the banks are complying with the guidelines set out by the European Central Bank (ECB) and are generating returns from their businesses in Spain, which have been weighing them down since the economic crisis.

Original story: Voz Pópuli (by Pepe Bravo)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Sabadell Sells €9.1bn to Cerberus & €2.5bn to Deutsche Bank

19 July 2018 – Voz Pópuli

Banco Sabadell is selling its property to Cerberus and Deutsche Bank. The Catalan entity has agreed with the US fund to transfer 80% of its foreclosed assets, worth €9.1 billion for €3.9 billion. And is finalising the sale of €2.5 billion in real estate loans proceeding from CAM to Deutsche Bank, according to financial sources consulted by Vozpópuli. The entities involved all declined to comment.

The agreement with Cerberus, which this newspaper revealed, includes two of the four large portfolios for sale: “Challenger”, containing assets from the bank – around €5 billion – and “Coliseum”, containing foreclosed assets proceeding from CAM and with public aid from the Deposit Guarantee Fund (FGD).

According to a statement filed with the CNMV, Sabadell values those two portfolios at €9.1 billion and is selling them to a new company for €3.9 billion, equivalent to 42% of the initial appraisal value. Cerberus will own 80% of the new company and Sabadell the remaining 20%, in such a way that the bank will receive around €3.1 billion. The sale requires provisions of €92 million. The Solvia platform was left out of the agreement.

Agreement with Deutsche Bank

Meanwhile, the agreement with Deutsche Bank is for Project Makalu, another of the four portfolios that Sabadell put up for sale. It already sold the first, unsecured, portfolio – Project Galerna – to the fund Axactor.

Of the four portfolios, this is the largest containing loans backed by real estate collateral. And it is protected by the public aid that Sabadell received for the purchase of CAM, at the end of 2011. For that reason, this operation, which may be signed in the next few days, requires the approval of the FGD.

Deutsche Bank has fought off tough competition from Oaktree and Lone Star to acquire this portfolio. The price of the operation could reach between €800 million to €900 million, according to market valuations. The advisor on the sale has been KPMG.

The German bank is one of the typical buyers of these types of portfolio, although until now, it had not purchased anything of this magnitude in Spain. Last year, it closed two operations, one with Sareb amounting to €400 million and the other with CaixaBank amounting to €700 million.

Balance sheet

Following the imminent agreement with Deutsche Bank, the divestment team at Sabadell led by Jaume Oliu and Simon Castellá will have transferred €12.5 billion in problem assets to Cerberus, Deutsche Bank and Axactor.

This latest acquisition by Cerberus is the fourth largest in history in Spain, behind the sale of Popular’s property to Blackstone – €30 billion; the sale of BBVA’s property to Cerberus – €14 billion; and the most recent sale of CaixaBank’s property to Lone Star – €12.8 billion.

Original story: Voz Pópuli (by Jorge Zuloaga)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Santander to Reduce its Toxic Assets to Zero by September

17 July 2018 – El Economista

Banco Santander is on the verge of saying goodbye to the great burden left behind after the crisis: the delinquent loans and properties. The entity is preparing for the sale this summer of a portfolio of toxic assets worth between €5 billion and €6 billion, which would leave its balance sheet virtually clean of property. The bank headed by Ana Botín is planning to close the operation, which is already underway, before the start of September, according to market sources.

In this way, the entity would manage to get rid of almost all of its leftover real estate in just one year. After acquiring Banco Popular, the bank saw its non-performing assets increase by €41.1 billion. Nevertheless, it found a quick exit after putting the portfolio containing all of Popular’s properties, worth €30 billion gross, on the market.

In August, Santander closed that operation after transferring half of the assets to Blackstone, for a net value of €5.1 billion. The operation saw the two entities, the bank and the fund, create a joint venture to which all of the property was transferred and in which Blackstone holds a 51% stake and the bank the remaining 49% share.

The management of the assets is now in the hands of the fund. The company, which was constituted in the spring of this year, is called Quasar Investment, and also holds the assets that used to be held by Aliseda, the servicer of Popular. Now, the bank is looking to get rid of this final portfolio almost exactly a year later.

At the end of March this year, the last date for which data is available, the bank had a real estate exposure in Spain of around €10 billion, of which 50% was provisioned. The bank already announced at its most recent results presentation that its aim was to leave its balance sheet practically free of those assets during the course of this year.

For the time being, the funds potentially interested in the portfolio include Cerberus, Lone Star and Blackstone. Specifically, those three funds have starred in the largest portfolio purchases from banks in the last year.

In November, BBVA announced the sale of 80% of its property to the fund Cerberus. The entity transferred a portfolio comprising around 78,000 real estate assets with a gross value of €13 billion for a price of €4 billion. In this way, the bank positioned itself as the Spanish entity with the fewest toxic assets on its balance sheet with an exposure of €4.775 billion, accounting for just 1.5% of its total assets in Spain.

CaixaBank has been one of the last entities to announce a major operation. That bank closed the sale of 80% of its real estate on 28 June to the fund Lone Star and it transferred it 100% of its servicer Servihabitat. The gross value of the real estate assets amounted to €12.8 billion, and the net book value was around €6.7 billion. Once CaixaBank has completed the repurchase of 51% of Servihabitat (an operation that was announced on 8 June and whose execution is pending authorisation from Spain’s National Securities and Exchange Commission), the entity will transfer the real estate business to a joint company with Lone Star, in which it will retain a 20% stake.

S&P determined in a report published last Thursday that the Spanish banks are going to struggle to fully clean up their balance sheets of toxic assets despite the accelerated rate of operations that are being carried out. Analysts recognise that, although the entities are increasingly close to putting an end to their delinquency problem, it is going to be hard to completely clear the ground due to the poor quality of the remaining assets.

Original story: El Economista (by Eva Díaz)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Sabadell Finalises Sale of €5bn in Real Estate Assets to Cerberus

12 July 2018 – Voz Pópuli

Banco Sabadell is finalising the largest real estate divestment in its history. The entity chaired by Josep Oliu (pictured below) is negotiating with Cerberus to close the sale of Project Challenger, a package of real estate assets worth around €5 billion, according to financial sources consulted by Voz Pópuli. Sources at Sabadell declined to comment.

Cerberus is thought to be negotiating a payment of around €2 billion, according to the same sources. The agreement could be signed within the next few days. The bank has been holding exclusive negotiations for several days with the fund chaired by John Snow and led in Spain by Manuel González Cid, although it has not ruled out the possibility of other candidates also presenting offers, including Lone Star and Bain Capital.

Project Challenger comprises properties – homes, developments and land – that Sabadell foreclosed during the crisis. The assets are not covered by the Deposit Guarantee Fund (FGD), and so their sale is relatively simple, provided the negotiations do not run aground in the coming days.

Goodbye to real estate

In addition to Project Challenger, Sabadell has launched three other operations in the last few months to free up its balance sheet of toxic assets. It has already closed one of those deals: Project Galerna, which the bank sold to Axactor, as revealed by this newspaper.

In addition to Galerna, Sabadell has Project Makalu underway, with €2.4 billion in problem loans; and Project Coliseum, with €2.5 billion in foreclosed assets. These three portfolios are covered by the Asset Protection Scheme (EPA), which the bank received in exchange for taking over CAM. For this reason, their sales depend on the negotiations currently underway with FGD.

Sabadell is expected to make a decision regarding the future of its real estate over the coming weeks to reveal a radically different image of the bank at the presentation of its half-year results, which will take place at the end of this month.

For Cerberus, this agreement would see it consolidate its position as one of the largest funds with real estate assets in Spain, alongside Blackstone – which took over the property of Popular and Catalunya Banc – and Lone Star, which signed a billion euro agreement recently with CaixaBank.

Meanwhile, in Spain, Cerberus controls the platform Haya Real Estate, which it has tried to list on the stock market, albeit unsuccessfully; and it is close to signing the acquisition of Anida and BBVA’s property, pending approval from the FGD.

Original story: Voz Pópuli (by Jorge Zuloaga)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Spain’s Banks Set to Sell €120bn+ in Problem Assets This Year

4 July 2018 – Cinco Días

Spain’s banks are stepping down on the accelerator to put an end to the property hangover, although it will still take another two or three years for them to get rid of all of the excesses left over from the financial crisis. And that is not so much due to the leftover real estate portfolios but more because of the portfolios of non-performing loans, a caption that is continuing to augment the balance sheets of financial institutions.

In this way, the experts hope that this year will see a new record in terms of the sale of portfolios, for an approximate total of €120 billion, including the macro-operations from Santander and BBVA, announced last year but completed this year. Without them, the figure could amount to more than €51 billion, slightly higher than in 2017, which would increase to €80 billion if Sareb manages to sell a €30 billion portfolio.

Pressure from the European Central Bank (ECB) and the Bank of Spain, as well as that exerted by the market itself, is causing financial institutions to opt to sell their portfolios of problem assets in single operations wherever possible, rather than selling them off in a piecemeal fashion, in light of the prospects of rising prices.

Interest from opportunistic funds to invest in Spain and, also forecasts for even greater price rises for real estate assets in the future, are leading the banks to take advantage of the opportunity to clean-up their balance sheets between this year and next, just 10 years after the start of the crisis, explain several experts.

“The funds have large amounts of liquidity. Moreover, interest rates are still at historical minimums (still negative) and so financing can be obtained at very low prices, hence their interest in buying large portfolios of assets linked to property. They want to take advantage of the current climate”, explains Íñigo Laspiur, Director of Corporate Finance CBRE España.

All of the experts agree that the sale by Santander of Popular’s property to Blackstone, an operation announced last year, but ratified at the beginning of this year, for a gross amount of around €30 billion, was the trigger that caused the banks to decide to divest their portfolios on a mass scale.

Since that operation was ratified at the beginning of this year, to date, the banks have divested more than €62 billion in problem assets. That amount includes BBVA’s operation with Cerberus, the fund to which it sold €13 billion. Nevertheless, that operation is still pending approval from the Deposit Guarantee Fund (FGD) since some of it forms part of the Asset Protection Scheme (EPA), having proceeded from the former savings bank Unnim.

Financial sources maintain that there are currently operations underway amounting to another €21 billion, plus an addition €8 billion that may be closed over the coming months. The largest include the sale of around €11 billion in assets from Sabadell (of which €900 million has already been sold to Axactor), whose sale is scheduled for this month.

To these figures another €30 billion gross may be added from the sale of a Sareb portfolio this year if Pedro Sánchez’s Government approves that potential operation in the end. Santander has also put up for sale another €6 billion.

Original story: Cinco Días (by Ángeles Gonzalo Alconada)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Project Ágora: CaixaBank Sells €650M NPL Portfolio to Cerberus

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.

Strategic revision

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