Merlin & Metrovacesa May Join Forces To Create Housing Socimi

14 June 2016 – El Confidencial

Create the largest Spanish housing Socimi. That is the plan that two giants in the sector, Merlin and Metrovacesa, are currently working on. For weeks now, they have been negotiating the creation of a joint vehicle, into which they would merge the residential assets that they currently rent out.

In total, these two giants together own almost 5,000 homes, of which, just over 1,500 would be contributed by the company chaired by Ismael Clemente, whilst the rest would come from Metrovacesa, which, in turn, has inherited most of those assets from its shareholder banks, above all the former Banif Inmobiliario fund, from Santander.

But, in addition, one of the points that they are analysing during these preliminary conversations is the possibility that both the entity chaired by Ana Botín, as well as its partner in Metrovacesa, BBVA, would benefit from this new company by injecting other homes that they currently hold on their balance sheets, which could add another 5,000 homes into the future vehicle.

If this marriage is consummated, the two parties would end up finding a solution to their respective problems. On the one hand, since it acquired Testa and inherited its residential assets, Merlin has been trying to remove them from its perimeter, given that its strategy is to focus on offices, logistics assets, retail premises and shopping centres.

On the other hand, for Metrovacesa, the main obstacle is management, given that the profound metamorphosis that the company has undergone in the last year, with the receipt of more than €1,000 million in assets and the carve out of its residential business, has converted the group into a giant that is still in the process of adapting to its own size.

Moreover, the complex times that the banking sector is experiencing, with a decrease in margins due to the low interest rate environment and the new regulations that are attacking its real estate assets, are putting pressure on the entities to put their large property portfolios on the market.

Although Rodrigo Echenique, the Chairman of Metrovacesa and a strongman at Santander in Spain, foresaw the recovery that the sector has undergone in the last two years and so decided to put a stop to his company’s asset sales and instead consolidate most of the bank’s property into his firm’s real estate arm, he is also aware that the time has now come to reap the rewards.

In fact, according to sources in the know, these conversations are being held directly between Metrovacesa’s shareholder banks, with Santander taking the lead, with the idea that Merlin’s team would take the reins in terms of the management of the new Socimi, although the entity chaired by Ana Botín would, presumably, be the major shareholder.

Santander controls Metrovacesa, with 70.27% of its share capital, followed by BBVA, which owns 20.52% and Popular, which owns 9.14%, whilst the remaining 0.007% is held by a small group of minority shareholders. By contrast, Merlin does not have a majority shareholder; most of its capital is traded freely on the stock market (free float), although several funds, including Blackrock, Fidelity, Invesco and Principal Financial Group, own significant positions. (…).

Original story: El Confidencial (by Ruth Ugalde)

Translation: Carmel Drake

The 4 Largest Socimis Have Raised €3,000M In 1 Year

13 June 2016 – Cinco Días

George Soros has just endorsed his commitment to the Socimi Hispania. Soros Fund Management, managed by the US magnate, subscribed once again to his share of the Socimi’s second capital increase, in which he is the majority shareholder. It is the most visible example of how international investors are still interested in these specialist listed real estate investment vehicles.

Since their creation, the four largest Socimis have raised more than €5,350 million in own funds, primarily from institutional funds and investors. In their respective debuts on the stock market, which all took place in 2014, they raised €2,600 million. Since then, all of them have also raised additional resources through capital increases. In total, they have raised €2,746 million of new financing in this way in the last 12 months.

Hispania completed the most recent operation at the beginning of June amounting to €230.6 million, and Soros participated in order to maintain his 16.7% stake, which required an investment of around €38 million. It was the second operation of its kind, after the Socimi undertook an accelerated placement in 2015 to raise a further €337 million. Its main investors include the international funds Paulson&Co and FMR.

The special tax framework that applies to Socimis, which has revitalised these firms since 2014, establishes that they are exempt from Corporation Tax, although they are obliged to distribute an annual dividend, on which its shareholders are taxed. These structures, which already existed in the USA (known there as REITs), have attracted international funds, who are backing the recovery of the real estate sector in Spain. The assets of the large Socimis, worth €9,235 million at the end of 2015, are rented out and include office buildings, shopping centres, bank branches, other premises, hotels and logistics warehouses.

The largest Socimi Merlin Properties, which is listed on the Ibex 35, has also completed two capital increases to raise €1,650 million. It completed its second round in August 2015, to raise €1,034 million, the largest in this sector. Following its purchase of Testa from Sacyr, the company chaired by Ismael Clemente now owns assets worth more than €6,050 million. Its shareholder structure is very fragmented and includes fund such as Blackrock, Invesco and Principal Financial Group.

Axiare Patrimonio, led by Luis López de Herrera-Oria, also raised €395 million in a capital increase last June. Finally, Lar España – which specialises in shopping centres – issued new shares worth €135 million last summer.

Original story: Cinco Días (by Alfonso Simón Ruiz)

Translation: Carmel Drake