22 September 2017 – El Confidencial
The operation in question is called Project Sena and it is the most important portfolio that BBVA has put on the market to date. With a volume of toxic real estate assets worth €2,000 million, primarily comprising NPLs backed by residential collateral, the entity chaired by Francisco González is holding exclusive conversations with Cerberus, according to several sources in the know. Both the bank and the fund have declined to comment.
Nevertheless, the US fund’s appetite goes much further and extends to include the real estate company Anida, which could end up forming part of the transaction as well. That would result in the second largest real estate divestment to be undertaken by a Spanish entity this year, following the sale of €30,000 million in toxic assets agreed between the new Santander-Popular and Blackstone.
The negotiations between Cerberus and BBVA date back to last summer and are currently at a critical point, in terms of tilting the balance one way or the other. Options on the table include Cerberus acquiring Sena on its own, adding Anida into the mix, or acquiring the former and entering the process to compete for the latter, a decision that could be taken at the next meeting between the entity’s Board of Directors.
As El Confidencial revealed, the idea has been floated at La Vela (BBVA’s headquarters in Madrid) of selling Anida to accelerate the real estate unblocking that the Bank of Spain itself is encouraging all the entities to undertake. In fact, BBVA has engaged PwC to advise it on the operation, and it is open to receiving different offers.
In its favour, Cerberus has the advantage of being in pole position to acquire Sena, a card that it wants to play in its favour to also bid for Anida. Nevertheless, other investment giants, such as Lone Star and Apollo, may also be interested in acquiring the real estate firm, a giant with gross assets of more than €5,000 million and the heir, along with others, of the former fund BBVA Propiedad, which the bank practically rescued at the end of 2008, when the first signs of the crisis emerged.
The net real estate exposure on BBVA’s balance sheet amounts to €8,750 million, according to the bank’s most recent half-yearly accounts, thanks to high coverage levels, which amount to 57% on average, one of the most conservative figures in the sector.
With a strategy clearly aimed at divesting real estate, in the last year, BBVA has undertaken several major operations, such as the sale of its Boston and Buffalo portfolios, the transfer of 1,500 homes to Testa, whose gross value amounts to €485 million and the transfer of land worth €431 million to Metrovacesa. Moreover, alongside Santander, BBVA is a shareholder of Merlin Properties, the largest Socimi in Spain.
After all these movements, the largest pawn currently in play is Anida, which also includes a property developer division, Anida Desarrollos Inmobiliarios, and several subsidiaries that the bank has been gathering up under the same umbrella, such as Anida Operaciones Singulares and subsidiaries in Mexico and Portugal.
In theory, the overseas units would be left outside of the real estate company sales process that is currently on the table, an operation whose final outcome is regarded in the market with as much expectation as concern, given that in the past, the entity has received several expressions of interest for Anida that have never ended up materialising.
But now the panorama has changed, given that the operation between Santander and Blackstone has put pressure on the rest of the sector to make similar moves, and the entities are increasingly more inclined to accelerate the divestment of their real estate.
Original story: El Confidencial (by Ruth Ugalde)
Translation: Carmel Drake