The Market for Land Makes a Come Back in Valencia

25 March 2019 – El Mundo

The stars are aligning in the real estate sector in Valencia. Investors and developers alike are keen to get there hands on the raw material there – land. Activity in the segment is still well below its peak of the boom but the recovery is now well underway.

According to the latest figures from the Ministry of Development, during 2018, the number of land sale operations increased, as did the total surface area sold and the total amount of the transactions. The market for land is still on the rise, even though the average prices being paid for plots has decreased.

In this way, 1,884 land sales were completed in the Community of Valencia during 2018, up by 11.1% YoY, when 1,687 sales were recorded. That is the highest figure since just before real estate bubble burst – 3,199 operations were recorded across the three provinces in 2007.

In total, 3.9 million m2 of land was sold last year, compared with 3.35 million m2 in 2017. Not since 2007 has more land been transacted in a single year – 5.4 million m2 of land was sold in 2007.

In total, investment in urban land amounted to €373.5 million last year, compared to €345.7 million the previous year. That is the highest figure since 2009 when €512 million was invested.

Moreover, the outlook for the year ahead is positive. More and larger land purchases are forecast, although the stock of plots with the most potential is starting to run out.

In terms of prices, the average price per square metre fell by 18% in Q4 2018 in YoY terms to €149.6/m2. Nevertheless, the average price rose by 21.7% to €217.9/m2 in those municipalities with more than 50,000 inhabitants in Alicante. That price compares very favourably with the average for municipalities with more than 50,000 inhabitants across the rest of Spain, where prices increased by 6.3% to €292/m2.

Original story: El Mundo (by F. D. G.)

Translation/Summary: Carmel Drake

The Sale of FC Valencia’s Mestalla Stadium Stalls Due to Divergent Price Expectations

6 March 2019 – Las Provincias

FC Valencia was hoping to close the sale of its Mestalla stadium by March of this year with the help of Deloitte, but a deal now seems a long way off after the comprehensive selection process undertaken by the audit firm failed to identify any bids that meet with the price expectations of the Mediterranean Club.

FC Valencia was hoping to obtain around €120 million for the plot, funds that it planned to use immediately to resume the construction of its new stadium, whose development has been suspended since February 2009 due to a lack of money. Three final round candidates were selected by Deloitte but none of their offers reached €100 million, let alone €120 million. In fact, all three bids fell well below, ranging between €70 million and €85 million.

Bankia is watching this process closely given that the football club still holds debt with the financial institution (mortgaged on the land). Time is running out for the football club. According to the timetable agreed with the Town Hall, the stadium on Cortes Valencianas must be finished by May 2021 and the former Mestalla demolished by 2023.

Original story: Las Provincias (by H.E. & C. V.)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Valenciaport Sells a Plot in Parc Sagunt to Inditex for €31M

4 February 2018 – Eje Prime

Valenciaport has made the sale of a plot of land in Parc Sagunt to Inditex official. The President of the Port Authority of Valencia (APV), Aurelio Martínez, signed the sale of this plot by ‘Valencia Plataforma Intermodal y Logística’ to Tempe, a footwear company that forms part of the Inditex group, before a notary on Monday. The plot measures almost 280,000 m2 and its price amounted to €31 million.

The APV is planning to allocate the resources obtained from the sale of the plot to promoting, activating and streamlining Parc Sagunt II, purchasing new areas to attract business investment of port interest, according to reports from Europa Press.

Tempe was the only company that submitted an offer in the tender process that was convened. As part of the sale’s terms, the company agrees not to sell or divest the plot for at least three years. Moreover, the group commits to undertake business activities within a maximum period of four years.

In January, Tempe emerged as the buyer of this asset after it was the only company to submit a bid in the tender. The company already has central offices and two logistics centres in the Elche Business Park in Alicante.

Original story: Eje Prime 

Translation: Carmel Drake

Hotels Suffer from the First Decrease in Overnight Stays since 2012

24 January 2019 – Expansión

The record number of tourists registered in 2018 has not removed the bitter taste from the mouths of Spanish hoteliers, who are starting to suffer from symptoms that the sector is worn out. In 2018, Spanish hotels recorded the first decrease in the number of overnight stays in six years. A moderate decrease, of –0.1%, according to data from INE, but one that has not been seen since 2012, when Spain was in the midst of the financial crisis.

Spain is receiving more tourists than ever, and they are increasing their spending year on year, but they are also gradually reducing their average stay, and some of the demand is opting for alternative destinations, such as Turkey, which are competing on price, which is eroding the margins of many hotels at home (…).

According to data from Exceltur, Spain lost 21 million overnight stays in 2018, due to a decrease in the average stay. The boom in low-cost airlines, amongst other factors in the sector, has favoured the democratisation of tourism. Increasingly more people are travelling, but they are doing so for shorter periods. Whilst in 2008, the average stay was 9.4 days, it is now 7.4 days.

That change can be observed most easily amongst overseas tourists, who account for 65.8% of overnight stays and who decreased the number of nights spent in Spain by -0.4%, whereas domestic tourists increased their overnight stays by +0.4%.

The change in trend is being observed primarily in the traditional beach and sun markets, and in the most important months for the sector, in the height of the summer. In the Canary Islands, the primary destination for international tourists, accounting for almost one third of all overnight stays, visits by foreigners decreased by 3.6%(…).

According to explanations provided recently by the Head of Research at Exceltur, Óscar Perelli, these decreases reflect “the recovery of competitor countries”. Hotels, especially those on the beach, are being affected by competition in terms of prices from countries such as Turkey, Egypt and Tunisia. Those markets have recovered around 12 million tourists in recent years and they are still 20% below the levels they reached before their own crises (…).

Travellers from the United Kingdom and Germany account for 46% of all of the overnight stays made by non-resident visitors, and yet, there was a -0.9% decrease last year in the case of British tourists.

As a result, many hotels are trying to compete through promotional packages and cost reduction policies, and so prices barely increased in 2018. The Index of Hotel Prices from INE reflects a 1.5% increase in hotel tariffs, barely three decimal points above inflation for the year, making it the lowest rise in prices since 2013.

In terms of tourists who increased their hotel stays by the most, those who have to travel long distances, including visitors from the US (6.1%) are also the travellers who spend the most (€113 per tourist per day, compared with €98/tourist/day for those visiting from traditional markets), and so representatives in the sector recommend focusing promotional strategies to attract tourists from those countries.

Original story: Expansión (by Inma Benedito)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Operación Chamartín’s Secret Contract: Adif Sells 1.2 million m2 of Public Land at Half its Market Value

27 December 2018 – El Diario

For 25 years, the agreement has remained a secret. It is the document that supports one of the largest urban development projects in Madrid in one of the most sought-after areas of the capital, in the north of the city, to continue the Castellana, where the financial district and the most expensive homes and offices are located, which are being sold for more than €5,000/m2. The contract is going to be signed on Friday. On the one hand, Adif, the public company that forms part of the Ministry of Development and that manages the railway infrastructure, and on the other, Distrito Castellana Norte, a property developer that has changed its name repeatedly over the last quarter of a century.

In 1993, the Ministry of Development, chaired at the time by Josep Borrell, now the Foreign Minister, signed an agreement with the construction firm San José and BBVA to develop the railway land reserved for Chamartín station. That agreement, whose term has been extended several times, has been kept under lock and key until today. The property developer filed several lawsuits to prevent it from being published.

However, eldiario.es is now exclusively publishing the latest draft of the agreement, which reveals the economic conditions of the project, which is reportedly the largest urban development project in Europe: the sale of 1.278 million m2 for homes and offices. On Friday, the definitive agreement will be signed, confirm sources at Adif, which has been blessed by the municipal planning of Manuela Carmena’s government and which will see the disposal of public buildable land for a price of €769.5/m2 in that area to the north of Madrid, the expansion area of the financial district, one of the most expensive parts of the capital.

Sources in the real estate sector claim that the agreed value represents half the market price at which other plots in the same area have been sold recently. In January, the same vendor, Adif, put another plot up for sale, further north, in San Sebastián de los Reyes, outside of the capital, which was sold for €1,500/m2 to a real estate cooperative: €16.3 million for 1,500 m2.

The gigantic plot that Adif is going to sell to Distrito Castellana Norte (DCN), formed by the construction firm San José and BBVA, groups together 1.27 million m2 of land, according to the current contract. For that space, DCN is going to pay €984.2 million, which represents a price of less than €769.5/m2 excluding the financial interest corresponding to the payment over 20 years.

Hours after eldiario.es published the contents of the agreement, Adif issued a statement confirming that the cost that the private partners (…) will pay for the operation is above market prices. To reach this conclusion, the public company (…) is taking the price of the land and adding the interest that will be paid for 20 years (3% each year), the budget for the urbanisation of the plot and even the transfer of the land that the law obliges to the property developer: 100,000 m2 for public housing that Adif estimates at €67.4 million.

In September, the Government of Manuela Carmena approved the general plan to authorise the urban development of the so-called Operación Chamartín. In the accompanying financial report, the only official estimate that exists, the Town Hall of Madrid calculates a land value that is three times higher than the figure that Adif is going to receive. In that document, Manuela Carmena’s Government establishes that the sale of the whole reclassified area (which groups together twice as much land as mentioned above and which also involves other landowners) “would amount to €3.749 billion in total”. The price established in that financial report corresponds to 2.6 million m2 of that urban development. According to those accounts, the price per m2 equates to €1,407/m2, well below the €769/m2 that Adif is going to receive (…).

Original story: El Diario (by Fátima Caballero)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Land at the Former San Jorge Paper Mill is being Advertised for 20 Times Less than the PAI’s Initial Appraisal Value

13 November 2018 – Levante EMV

“Second-hand urban land with a surface area of 10,893 m2 and a buildability of 5,514 m2. Located on the outskirts of Xàtiva, in a quiet area”. That advert has been circulating for months on several real estate websites for  a portion of the land where the historical San Jorge Paper Mill used to be located – a dismantled factory complex and a symbol of the former industrial splendour of the city and, until the middle of the 20th century, one of the most important emporiums in the country.

With the crisis, the plot for sale, which is residential in nature, became part of the portfolio of Banco Sabadell’s real estate division, although a promotion is marketing it for just €65,600: equivalent to €8/m2. The amount has decreased by 47% since the asset was transferred. After its reclassification 13 years ago, the plots were appraised at a price twenty times higher, at €170/m2, a figure that is closer to the current market average. A few metres away, on the industrial estate, commercial and industrial use plots half the size are being sold for €1.5 million.

The different buildings that used to make up the San Jorge Paper Mill occupy two urban plots that, according to the cadastral records, span 65,000 m2. The largest, measuring 54,000 m2, was seized and adjudicated by the court in 2017 to Sareb, the bad bank created to absorb the toxic real estate assets. The property no longer appears in the entity’s public catalogue in Xàtiva.

At the height of the real estate boom, a company administered by a former colleague of Alfonso Rus in the PP, condemned for fraud, managed to persuade the department run by the now imprisoned Rafael Blasco to reclassify 73,000 m2 of land in the factory complex from industrial to residential for the construction of 310 homes. That operation revalued the land by €10 million: Caixa Catalunya appraised the land at €12.4 million and signed a mortgage loan amounting to €6.1 million with the property developer of the PAI, which had previously purchased the land for just €2.4 million.

In the process of being protected

The municipal government of Xàtiva has definitively buried the failed urban planning progress during this legislature. Nevertheless, for the time being,  the Town Hall’s plans do not include the option of following in the footsteps of the former convent of Santa Clara and acquiring the land of the paper mill, founded in 1932 by Gregorio Molina. Municipal sources emphasise that the land of the former industrial company is still considered to be for “undeveloped low-density residential” use, although there is no intention to develop any project on the site for now.

The Paper Mill, which is in the process of being declared an Asset of Local Importance and of having its protection status expanded, is home to the largest brick chimney in the Community of Valencia, as well as a mill and a light factory. Its warehouses, gadgets and other components of industrial heritage were going to be demolished by the property developer of the former PAI. The land for sale also served as a paintball battlefield a few years ago (…).

Original story: Levante EMV (by S. Gómez)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Project Olympia: CaixaBank Puts €800M Portfolio of Doubtful SME Loans Up for Sale

23 October 2018 – Voz Pópuli

CaixaBank is pushing ahead with its objective to clean up its toxic property. The Catalan entity is holding negotiations with large international funds to sell the largest portfolio of doubtful SME loans to go on the market to date, amounting to €800 million, according to financial sources consulted by Voz Pópuli.

The deal in question is Project Olympia, which CaixaBank wants to close before the end of the year. It includes loans with real estate guarantees granted to small and medium-sized entities.

This operation joins another that the group led by Gonzalo Gortázar has underway and which is in a more advanced phase, Project Orion, comprising €600 million also in doubtful loans to SMEs with real estate guarantees.

In total, CaixaBank wants to clean up almost €1.5 billion before the end of the year and whereby complete the macro-operation signed with Lone Star to sell almost all of its foreclosed assets for €7 billion. After transferring the homes and land, the only assets left to sell are the problem loans, which is exactly what the entity is doing with Olympia and Orion.

Candidates

Unlike with the sale of the foreclosed assets, the favourites to buy the Olympia portfolio are not large fortunes such as Blackstone, Cerberus, Lone Star and Apollo. In this case, intermediate funds are looking at the operation, such as Axactor, Bain Capital, Intrum and D. E. Shaw. The large funds are saving themselves for other operations underway and to close those already signed during the year.

In the case of Olympia, experts in the market calculate that CaixaBank could obtain around €250 million for this package of loans, whilst the price of Orion could amount to €200 million.

With all of these operations, the Catalan entity is expected to end up with a net exposure (after provisions) to real estate of around €10 billion, down from €20.2 billion at the end of last year.

Beyond the pressure from the ECB to follow this path, the strategy is key for the bank this year due to the closure of its current strategic plan. The lower its exposure to property, the greater the profitability of the entities, which is critical in the current environment.

Original story: Voz Pópuli (Jorge Zuloaga)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Criteria Raises the Price of the Plots for Hard Rock Café Complex in Tarragona

8 October 2018 – El Confidencial

Criteria, the holding company of the investment companies owned by La Caixa, has increased the price of the plots on which Hard Rock Café Entertainment World is set to be built. The new leisure and casino complex is due to be constructed in Tarragona, next to Port Aventura. That is according to explanations provided by sources in the real estate sector to justify the delay in the project, formerly BCN World, which constitutes the largest foreign investment pending in Cataluña and which will involve the disbursement of €2 billion in total.

Criteria had closed an option to sell the land worth €110 million. But that was in December 2014. Now that Hard Rock Café, a multinational from the United States of America specialising in hotel and restaurant complexes linked to casinos, wants to exercise the option, Criteria is claiming that the real estate market has recovered in the last four years and so the price needs to be updated.

Sources at Criteria declined to comment but other sources in the real estate sector explained that a new due diligence process is being carried out to determine the magnitude of the price increase. The new price is expected to amount to around €140 million, a claim that has been rejected wholeheartedly by the Hard Rock Café, which alleges, and rightly so, that the delays incurred by the project (…) which now amount to more than three years, cannot be attributed to the company.

According to the original plan, the project should have been ready by 2015. But, partly due to the withdrawal of investments, and partly due to the political instability in Cataluña, the complex has suffered various delays.

Hard Rock Café is the only company that survived the bidding process for the gambling licences and is now the main party responsible for developing the complex. The forecast investment in Tarragona amounts to €2 billion for the construction of Hard Rock Entertainment World, which will have two hotels and 1,100 rooms, a shopping area with 75 shops – which will be operated by the British giant Value Retail, owner of Las Rozas and La Roca – and a 10,000 m2 casino. The project is expected to create more than 11,000 jobs and will be carried out in phases: the first amounting to €600 million.

When the initial investor withdrew, which was led by the businessman Enrique Bañuelos, La Generalitat subrogated the option to purchase the land, as a way of ensuring the continuity of the project. But that operation is neutral. La Generalitat would only perform a transfer and the final investor would have to pay the price of the plots. The Administration does not want to assume the surcharge that the new valuation would now result in.

Different positions

Each party defends its position. For Hard Rock Café, it cannot make its company or the other investors responsible for the delays incurred and therefore, does not want to assume the additional cost.

Meanwhile, Criteria has renewed the sale option, which had a term of 18 months, on up to four occasions to ensure that the investment would not go to waste, and considers that its efforts should also be rewarded.

An agreement must be reached between the parties soon (…). This project is key for Cataluña and will only serve to turn around the foreign investment figures that have been negative for the Catalan Administration since the independence process entered its critical phase.

Licence in May

In May 2018, Hard Rock Café obtained the licence for the project, which includes the gambling licence for the casino, granted by La Generalitat. That administrative permit arrived a year late due to the political instability in Cataluña. Now, Hard Rock Café, which is owned by a tribe of Seminole Indians (Florida) has three years to submit its plans. La Generalitat expects the building work to begin in 2019. The negotiations with Criteria could mean more delays if the positions fester, warn sources in the real estate sector.

Original story: El Confidencial (by Marcos Lamelas)

Translation: Carmel Drake

La Caixa’s Subsidiary Inmo Criteria Negotiates Purchase of Tertiary Plot in 22@

6 June 2018 – Eje Prime

More and more operations are being negotiated in the 22@ district of Barcelona. The latest to join the party is La Caixa, which, through its real estate subsidiary Inmo Criteria, is negotiating the purchase of a plot in 22@ on which it plans to build two office buildings with an above ground surface area of 27,000 m2, according to sources close to the operation speaking to Eje Prime. Although no more details have been disclosed at this stage, the price of the operation could amount to €34 million and will have also caught the attention of another group, namely Glenwell Group, which specialises in opportunities in the Spanish real estate sector, according to the same sources.

Nevertheless, Inmo Criteria is the best-positioned player to acquire this plot. If the operation goes ahead, then the real estate arm of La Caixa will acquire a plot of land located on the block of Calle Ávila y Badajoz, where two buildings are planned, spanning 14,500 m2 and 12,500 m2, respectively. The plots are owned by several owners, including the Miette Group, which declined to comment on the negotiation process.

According to sources close to the operation, the price being considered for the purchase of this land is, approximately, €1,250/m2, which would mean that for 27,000 m2, the buyer could end up spending between €33 million and €34 million. If Inmo Criteria does acquire the plot, it will carry out the promotion and marketing of the offices and will entrust the construction work to a third party, like a large number of groups in the sector do, such as Colonial for example.

Inmo Criteria is the owner of a portfolio of properties with a net value of €2.8 billion, of which €505 million are classified as available-for-sale, €605 million as rental properties, €1,146 million as land and €557 million dedicated to affordable housing programs. The portfolio of properties is managed by InmoCaixa, a company that belongs 100% to CriteriaCaixa (…).

Land in 22@ is highly sought-after

Land in 22@ has attracted attention from a large number of operators, who have invested in the district to promote new residential and office buildings. One example is La Llave de Oro, which signed the purchase of a plot measuring 3,330 m2 in the 22@ district of Barcelona in April for €22 million. On that plot, which had been owned by Metrovacesa, the group plans to build 17,400 m2 of offices (…).

Original story: Eje Prime (by Custodio Pareja)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Town Hall of Madrid Criticised for Selling Plot Reportedly Worth €48M for €16M

18 April 2018 – La Vanguardia

The PSOE has denounced the Government of Manuela Carmena for breaching the agreed budget for 2017 and “the most basic municipal obligation” with its sale of a plot in Carabanchel for €16 million. It alleges that the sale was a “total waste”, given that the site was reportedly worth €48 million, up to three times more.

The socialist councillor, Mercedes González, condemned the delegate for Sustainable Urban Development (DUS), José Manuel Calvo, for the sale of the plot measuring 38,140 m2, which had belonged to the EMT, for a “modicum sum” in an auction in which the property developer Pryconsa participated on its own.

The plot is located on Avenida de Carabanchel, 21, in the district of Carabanchel, in a privileged location in the opinion of the PSOE – the investiture partner of Ahora Madrid – where a significant number of social housing properties could have been built.

The socialist spokesperson on the committee denounced that the plot had been sold with the knowledge and consent of the delegate, whose team also supported the “enormous” growth of the buildability from 2,600 m2 to 27,000 m2 (…).

The plot was sold for €427/m2, or €16 million in total, even though, according to the IBI (Property Tax) charge, the cadastral value of the site is €48 million (…).

In the face of these complaints, the councillor José Manuel Calvo defended that he had not intervened in the process or the sale decision (…).

The deal between PSOE and Ahora Madrid for the 2017 budgets established that the Town Hall would not sell any of its land or properties.

Original story: La Vanguardia

Translation: Carmel Drake