Santander Transfers Land Worth €4bn to a Newly Created Land Manager

18 March 2019 – Cinco Días

Santander is making history once again. The entity has created a company to which it is going to transfer all of the land proceeding from its exposure to property, which has a gross book value of around €4 billion (and a net value of around €2 billion).

The purpose of this new vehicle, known as Landmark Iberia, will be to advance with the urban planning procedures required to generate value from these plots and to continue selling the land, with the ultimate goal of selling the whole company if an attractive offer is received.

Landmark is not like any of the bank’s previous projects given that it is not a servicer. Its job is to generate value from the plots that it receives from Santander – it is the first entity of its kind in Spain.

The operation forms part of the group’s overall strategy to reduce its exposure to real estate, in accordance with the instructions of the Bank of Spain. Last year, Santander decreased the value of its exposure by 55.9% in gross terms to €15.1 billion, according to the entity’s annual accounts, thanks to its operations with Blackstone (project Quasar) and Cerberus.

Landmark will likely become the largest landowner in the country, alongside other major companies in the sector such as the property developer Metrovacesa and the fund Cerberus.

Original story: Cinco Días 

Translation/Summary: Carmel Drake

2018: The Year that Blackstone was Crowned the King of the Spanish Real Estate Sector

17 December 2018 – Eje Prime

Blackstone wants it all and it wants it now. That is the sensation that the US investment fund, the new king of the Spanish real estate market, is transmitting throughout the real estate sector. Its portfolio is worth more than €20 billion after an accelerated period of purchases during 2018.

One of the objectives of the US fund manager has been, precisely, to expand its network in the Spanish real estate sector by entering markets such as the logistics segment. At the beginning of December, the company closed its latest operation in the country with the purchase of a logistics portfolio from Neinver for €300 million.

Nevertheless, the deal involving the giant Neinver is by no means the most significant operation that Blackstone has undertaken this year. Over the last twelve months, the group has taken control of Hispania, to grow in the hotel sector; it has acquired 80% of Testa, to manage thousands of rental homes, and in the logistics sector, it has accumulated 1 million m2 of space with the 55 assets from Neinver and the purchase of an industrial portfolio from Lar España.

Blackstone has disbursed almost €4 billion in the Spanish real estate sector this year, a figure that far exceeds the €127.5 million that it spent on its first investment in the domestic market in 2013. Moreover, that debut was not free from controversy, given that the group purchased 18 residential developments, containing 1,860 social housing units, which the Town Hall of Madrid sold the fund through the Municipal Housing and Land Company of Madrid (Emvsa).

Five years later, Blackstone is one of the largest owners of residential assets in Spain and the leader of the hotel sector. It leapt to first position in the hotel market ranking this year following its successful takeover of the Socimi Hispania. The company paid €1.99 billion for that vehicle, managed by Azora. With that operation, the fund added 46 assets and almost 13,150 rooms in Spain to a portfolio that it started to grow in 2017 with the purchase of HI Partners, the hotel arm of Banco Sabadell, for €630 million. In total, the manager owns 63 assets and almost 18,000 hotel rooms across Spain.

Hispania also provided Blackstone with residential assets worth €230 million, as well as 25 office buildings whose market value exceeds €600 million. Also in that segment, the company added the iconic Planeta office building in Barcelona to its portfolio during 2018, which it purchased from the Lara family in July for €210 million.

Spain, 20% of its global portfolio

Today, Spain accounts for 20% of Blackstone’s global investment. In total, the US firm owns property worth almost USD 120,000 million (€105,387 million) around the world. This real estate giant has become the largest unlisted real estate company in Spain (…).

The superiority of Blackstone’s portfolio in Spain with respect to those of the large domestic real estate firms is clear. The two largest players, Merlin and Colonial, are ranked within the top 15 Socimis in Europe and, yet, their portfolios are worth just half of that of the fund, at €11.785 billion and €11.19 billion, respectively.

Santander’s best friend

As well as mixing with other real estate players, Blackstone has made friends with some of the Spanish financial institutions. The banks, big losers in the previous real estate cycle, have worked hard over the last two years to place their property with the highest bidder, taking advantage of the new boom in the residential market.

In this way, in 2017, Banco Santander agreed with Blackstone the largest operation involving the sale of toxic assets from the real estate sector in the country. The fund manager purchased 51% of Popular’s property, a portfolio with €30,000 million in assets.

The relationship with the bank owned by the Botín family has been strengthened in 2018 with Project Quasar, the real estate firm created by the financial institution and the fund. The joint venture received a capital injection amounting to €300 million in May. Through this vehicle, the transfer of Popular’s assets is being carried out.

In order to place this property into circulation, as part of the operation in 2017, Blackstone also acquired the bank’s servicer, Aliseda, led by Eduard Mendiluce (…), who also manages the Socimi Albirana.

Albirana Properties is one of four residential Socimis that Blackstone currently has listed on the Alternative Investment Market (MAB). The others are Fidere Patrimonio, Corona Patrimonial and Torbel Investments.

Original story: Eje Prime (by Jabier Izquierdo)

Translation: Carmel Drake

BNP Paribas: Property Sales by Banks Amounted to €73.5bn in 9 Months to September

30 October 2018 – Eje Prime

Financial institutions are continuing to put their real estate on the market. The sale of portfolios of real estate assets by banks is expected to amount to €16.5 billion between October and December, according to the latest report published by BNP Paribas Real Estate.

The entity’s latest report reflects that sales amounting to €73.5 billion were made during the nine months to September. “The pressure that the European Central Bank is exerting on the financial entities to ensure that they do not speculate with the assets they hold on their balance sheets is generating a wave of sales of large portfolios of residential assets”, said David Alonso, Director of Research at BNP Paribas España, according to reports from Cinco Días.

The largest operations undertaken so far this year relate to Banco Santander, with the sale of Project Quasar to the investment fund Blackstone for €30 billion; the sale by the bank BBVA of Project Marina to Cerberus for €13 billion; and the sale by CaixaBank to LoneStar of 80% of its real estate business for €12.8 billion.

Despite the eye-wateringly large figures highlighted in the report, the funds acquiring the properties tend to obtain an average discount of 65% and so the final prices are considerably lower than the nominal value in each case. “The main buyers are opportunistic investment funds and when it comes to completing their purchases, they typically demand discounts of between 50% and 80% of the asset value”, explained Alonso.

The arrival of new players with an appetite for the Spanish real estate market, such as the Socimis, investment funds and joint ventures, has boosted the purchase of several debt portfolios from bank entities in recent years. “They are agents that were not present six years ago; with these purchases, they have helped the banks to significantly reduce the property on their balance sheets, and they have also increased the control over loans to property developers and the management of residential buildings for profit”, said Alonso.

Original story: Eje Prime

Translation: Carmel Drake

Santander Considers €3bn Offer from Cerberus for its Toxic Property

6 September 2018 – Voz Pópuli

Banco Santander is on the verge of closing the sale of half of the property that it still has left over from the crisis. The Spanish entity is holding advanced negotiations to transfer €5.1 billion in foreclosed assets to Cerberus, for around €3 billion, according to financial sources consulted by Vozpópuli.

The fund chaired by John Snow has fought off competition from three other major international investors: Apollo, Lone Star and Blackstone. It is currently the favourite in the running even though it has not submitted the highest bid. According to Debtwire, Cerberus put an offer of €2.7 billion on the table; Apollo offered €2.9 billion but with a less attractive payment plan; and Lone Star and Blackstone bid themselves out of contention.

The offers were presented at the end of August and Santander is expected to close the sale over the next two weeks. Small changes in the perimeter of the operation have not been ruled out.

Resetting the clock

The sale of these assets – known as Project Apple – represents the largest divestment currently underway in the financial sector. It follows other sales completed this year, such as CaixaBank’s sale of €12.8 billion to Lone Star; and Sabadell’s sale of €9.1 billion to Cerberus.

With Project Apple, in which Santander is being advised by Credit Suisse, the bank hopes to reduce its exposure to property in Spain to almost nil.

Following the purchase of Popular last year, Santander ended up with €45 billion on its balance sheet. Last year, it transferred 51% of the €30 billion from Popular to Blackstone – Project Quasar. And, according to figures reported at its results presentation in July, Santander now has €10.1 billion of real estate exposure in Spain. Following the possible sale to Cerberus, it would be left with less than €5 billion, equivalent to just 11% of the balance it held a year ago.

With this operation, Cerberus would consolidate its position as the fund that has purchased the most assets from the banks during the crisis. In the last year alone, it has acquired property from Sabadell and BBVA.

Original story: Voz Pópuli (by Jorge Zuloaga)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Project Apple: Apollo Bids Hard for Santander’s Last Real Estate Portfolio

30 July 2018 – El Confidencial

Project Apple, the name chosen for the €5 billion real estate portfolio that Banco Santander has put up for sale, is entering the home stretch. The entity chaired by Ana Botín has asked the interested funds to submit their definitive offers this week, according to sources close to the operation.

As this newspaper revealed, the firms that have expressed their interest in the operation include the giants Lone Star, Cerberus, Blackstone and Apollo, although, the latter two are regarded as the favourites, given that they have significant recent history with the Cantabrian bank’s property.

Just one year ago, Blackstone was awarded project Quasar, the €30 billion portfolio of gross toxic assets that Santander sold (following its acquisition of Banco Popular). Meanwhile, Apollo owns 85% of Altamira, the real estate asset manager that the financial entity created and which is currently administering the €5 billion portfolio up for sale.

Having been left out of all of the major real estate processes involving the banks, Apollo has decided to bid hard for Apple, according to the same sources, a move that has been launched in parallel to the possible sale of  (its stake in) Altamira, the manager that would lose some of its appeal if another fund were to manage to acquire this portfolio.

In addition, the firm led in Spain by Andrés Rubio has just reached an agreement with Santander to modify Altamira’s management contract and to refinance the servicer’s debt, in a deal that has allowed the fund to distribute a dividend of €200 million.

For Santander, the sale of Project Apple will mean completing the divestment of all of its real estate exposure, a move that took a giant leap forward last year with the transfer of the Quasar portfolio to Blackstone.

Nevertheless, and precisely because it has already cleaned up the bulk of its balance sheet, the entity does not have any need to sell and, therefore, if the bids come in below its expectations, it may decide not to transfer the portfolio after all, at least not through this process.

After the Cantabrian bank, BBVA reached an agreement with Cerberus to sell it 80% of its toxic property, whose gross value amounts to €13 billion, in an operation that is expected to be completed later this year.

More recently, CaixaBank reached an agreement with Lone Star to sell it 100% of Servihabitat and the majority of a portfolio of properties worth €6.7 billion; and Banco Sabadell made a deal to transfer €12.3 billion in toxic assets to Cerberus (€9.1 billion), Deutsche Bank (€2.3 billion) and Axactor (€900 million).

Original story: El Confidencial (by R. Ugalde)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Blackstone to List New Socimi with 4,000 Rental Homes Purchased from Sabadell

29 May 2018 – El Confidencial

One of the first funds to bet on the boom in rental housing in Spain, Blackstone, is on the verge of listing its fourth Socimi to specialise in this market, an area that is really blossoming.

The Socimi in question is Torbel Investments, a vehicle that primarily comprises the so-called Project Empire, a portfolio containing almost 4,000 homes, parking spaces, premises and storerooms that Banco Sabadell sold to the US fund two years ago.

At the time, the operation was worth around €600 million, although in net book value terms, Blackstone has recorded the assets at €113 million, according to Torbel’s most recent official accounts, corresponding to the year ending 2016.

Currently, the fund is on the home stretch of the procedures necessary with the CNMV – Spain’s National Securities and Markets Commission – to list the vehicle, whose natural destination is the MAB – Alternative Investment Market – given that Blackstone’s objective is, simply, to fulfil the demands of the Socimi regime to list the company so that it can benefit from the tax advantages.

That point means that this placement is completely different from the one being finalised by Testa, another giant in the rental housing sector in Spain, which is expected to make its debut on the main stock market in June, with €1.834 billion in assets.

Plethora of Socimis

Since it acquired these homes from Sabadell, Blackstone has managed all of the flats through its own servicer company, Anticipa, the firm that is behind the day to day operations of all of the large residential acquisitions carried out by the fund.

By geographical distribution, both in terms of property value and rental income, the main markets in which the Socimi has a presence are Madrid, Alicante, Murcia and Valencia, in other words, regions where the former entity CAM – Caja de Ahorros del Mediterráneo – had its greatest presence before it was acquired by Sabadell and whose foreclosed assets comprise this portfolio.

Blackstone is competing head to head with Testa to be the largest landlord in Spain, but it is adopting a very different strategy given that whilst the firm in which Santander, BBVA, Acciona and Merlin all hold stakes is opting to concentrate the greatest number of homes possible in a single company, the US fund is playing its hand by backing several smaller vehicles.

For the time being, Blackstone has already listed Fidere, which owns more than 5,700 homes, many of which have some kind of public protection;  it also has Albirana Properties, owner of another 5,000 rental assets; and Corona Patrimonial. But, in addition, the fund has been creating other Socimis such as Tourmalet and Pegarena.

All of these companies are expected to continue expanding their portfolios with assets from Project Quasar, the portfolio that Blackstone acquired from Santander, and which contains a sizeable portfolio of homes from the former Banco Popular.

Original story: El Confidencial (by Ruth Ugalde)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Blackstone Includes its own RE Manager in the Popular Divestment Deal

3 May 2018 – La Información

Blackstone’s real estate platform, Anticipa, is going to collaborate with Aliseda – founded at the time by Popular – in the management of its voluminous property portfolio. The US fund acquired Anticipa in 2014 when it was awarded Catalunya Caixa’s portfolio, and it has just taken control of Aliseda, as part of the mega-operation signed with Santander. The Cantabrian group included the real estate platform, together with a dozen real estate companies, in the €30 billion gross portfolio of properties that it transferred to the new company, in which Blackstone owns 51% of the capital and Santander held onto the remaining 49%.

Blackstone decided not to merge the companies but they are going to collaborate together, according to information submitted to the market about the syndicated loan signed to close Popular’s transaction. The toxic exposure divested by Santander in the deal known as “Project Quasar” has been valued at €10 billion net, given that there was a provision cushion amounting to 63% of the original value in the case of the foreclosed assets and 75% in the case of the loans.

The transaction was structured with the contribution of 30% in capital and 70% in debt. The bank and the fund are going to contribute almost €3 billion in capital and the remaining almost €7.333 billion will proceed from a financial structure led by Bank of America Merrill Lynch, together with Deutsche Bank, JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley, Parlex 15 Lux, The Royal Bank of Scotland and Sof Investment. The operation has been advised by the law firm Allen & Overy, amongst others.

The “Neptune” portfolio constituted to obtain the financing includes Aliseda in the perimeter along with numerous real estate companies and stakes held in them by Popular, including Tifany Investments, Corporación Financiera ISSOS, Pandantan (Mindanao), Taler Real Estate, Vilarma Gestión, Marina Golf, Popsol, Elbrus Properties, Cercebelo Assets, Eagle Hispania, Las Canteras de Abanilla and Canvives. A large proportion of the assets transferred are plots of land, together with residential homes, industrial warehouses, commercial properties, offices, garages and almost €1 billion gross exposure in hotels.

This operation is going to allow Santander to dramatically reduce its exposure to foreclosed assets from €41.1 billion to €10.4 billion – a figure that is reduced to a net of €5.2 billion thanks to the provisions it has recognised amounting to 50% of the initial value – but enabling it to benefit from the divestments as a shareholder of the company receiving the portfolios with a 49% stake.

The plan includes the use of Socimis

The fund’s divestment plans include constructing or transferring some of the assets to Socimis, a vehicle that Blackstone has made use of for previous operations because it offers tax benefits such as avoiding the need to pay Corporation Tax if they distribute dividends. In gross terms, residential assets accounted for almost one-third of the perimeter of the original properties involved in the transaction.

After leaving the Popular portfolio in the hands of Blackstone, Santander still has €4 billion net in foreclosed assets and €1.2 billion in doubtful financing that it wants to get rid of soon. The bank plans to repackage the assets by batch and put them on the market, where half a dozen entities and Sareb are exploring how to get rid of almost €48 billion gross – the bad bank alone is looking for a buyer for the €30 billion whose sale is being managed by Haya Real Estate, and Sabadell has several batches up for sale amounting to almost €11 billion.

The Cantabrian group acquired Popular when it had closed the chapter to clean up its real estate and now it wants to return to that position quickly. It was its real estate division to leave behind the “red numbers” this year or by the early stages of 2019 at the latest.

Original story: La Información (by Eva Contreras)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Cerberus, Blackstone & Lone Star Ask Sabadell to Sell Solvia with its Real Estate

23 April 2018 – Bolsa Mania

The large opportunistic funds are setting their sights on Banco Sabadell to close one of the major operations in Europe of 2018. The sounding out process initiated by the Catalan entity to transfer around €7.5 billion in real estate assets, as published by this newspaper, is generating a lot of interest amongst the large international funds, according to Vozpópuli.

At least three of them are examining the portfolio carefully: Cerberus, Blackstone and Lone Star, according to financial sources consulted by Vozpópuli. The third is the only one that was left out of the major operations signed in 2017 involving: Popular’s real estate – Project Quasar – which Blackstone purchased; and BBVA’s property – Project Marina, which Cerberus acquired, and which is pending final approval. For the time being, the other ‘usual suspect’ Apollo is not involved in the latest operation.

The same sources add that the funds have suggested that Solvia should be included in the sale. That would achieve several objectives: it would retain the managers that know the assets and add volume to their real estate platforms in a sector that is in the midst of consolidation. Cerberus owns Haya Real Estate, which is in the process of making its stock market debut; and Blackstone owns Anticipa and Aliseda. Meanwhile, Lone Star has experience in the sector as it was the inspiration behind Neinor.

Original story: Bolsa Mania

Translation: Carmel Drake

Sareb Considers Slicing Up Haya Real Estate’s €24bn Mega-Contract

27 March 2018 – Voz Pópuli

Sareb is already working on a new tender for its largest management contract. Specifically, it involves old real estate loans from Bankia worth €24 billion that are currently being administered by Haya Real Estate, the real estate arm of Cerberus. The contract is due to terminate at the end of 2019, but Sareb is already working on different options to launch a tender in the short-term and for the portfolio to be awarded in just over a year.

One of the options on the table involves slicing up the contract into two or more mandates, according to confirmation provided by Sareb to this newspaper.

There are several options under consideration at the moment. The first, placing the €24 billion (in gross terms, the figure amounts to €13 billion in net terms) servicing contract, as it stands today, with a single manager, which could be Haya Real Estate or could be one of its large competitors, such as Altamira, Aktua, Servihabitat, Solvia or Aliseda-Anticipa (Blackstone).

That scenario is the one that most interests Haya Real Estate, which has a lot at stake with this contract, given that it represents 60% of its assets under management, and the firm is in the midst of its stock market debut. It is interested because Cerberus’s platform is the one that knows the assets the best and has the advantage of not having to migrate them, which would slow down Sareb’s rate of sales.

Other options

Alternatively, the mega-contract could be shared out between several platforms. One of the options under consideration is to tender a contract linked to the ownership of the assets. In other words, a large operation like those that Santander and BBVA starred in last year with Blackstone – Project Quasar – and Cerberus – Project Marina -, respectively.

That would also involve the creation of a joint venture company, like the FAB. In this way, Sareb would kill two birds with one stone: deconsolidate assets without forgoing potential gains; and award the management of the assets to a fund-platform.

Another option on the table is to split Haya’s portfolio into two or more batches. That split could be performed by type of asset, linked to the debt (tertiary, residential, land…), or by geographical area, whereby benefitting from the specialisation of the platforms.

The first contract to be renewed is Haya Real Estate’s. The other three are not due to terminate until 2021: Altamira’s with 28,000 properties from the portfolios of Catalunya Banc, Caja 3 and BMN; Solvia’s with 34,000 properties proceeding from Bankia; and Servihabitat’s, with properties and loans from NCG, Liberbank and Banco de Valencia.

Original story: Voz Pópuli (by Jorge Zuloaga)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Project Makalu: Sabadell Puts €2.5bn Portfolio Up For Sale

21 March 2018 – Vozpópuli

Banco Sabadell is stepping on the accelerator to complete its balance sheet clean up as soon as possible. After months of negotiations with the Deposit Guarantee Fund (FGD), the Catalan entity has decided to place on the market its first large portfolio proceeding from CAM’s Asset Protection Scheme (EPA). In this way, it has distributed information to investors about Project Makalu, comprising €2.5 billion in assets from the former Alicante-based savings bank, according to financial sources consulted by Vozpópuli.

This operation comprises foreclosed assets and unpaid loans from companies and individuals covered by the EPA. It follows another portfolio that has been on the market for a few days, Project Galerna, comprising €900 million in non-performing loans.

KPMG is advising Sabadell on both operations, which together comprise assets and loans worth €3.4 billion.

The group chaired by Josep Oliu has been negotiating with the FGD for months to try to kick-start these operations. The aim is that they will be followed by two more portfolios taking the total value of the assets for sale to €12 billion and whereby reset the entity’s real estate calculator. The issue is not simple because the sale of these loans may generate a hole for the Fund that would impact the State deficit.

Strategic plan

The Catalan entity announced at the recent launch of its strategic plan in London that it maintains the objective of reducing its exposure to problem assets at a rate of €2 billion per year. With the sale of Project Makalu alone it would more than exceed that goal.

The bank held €15.2 billion in problem assets at the end of 2017, but the forecasts indicate that that figure will fall below €9 billion by 2020: €4 billion in doubtful loans and €5 billion in foreclosed assets. And that is without taking into account the divestments that are now being worked on with the FGD.

Project Makalu is the fourth largest portfolio of problem assets ever to be put up for sale by a Spanish bank, behind only Popular’s Project Quasar, amounting to €30 billion, purchased by Blackstone; BBVA’s Project Marina, amounting to €13 billion, acquired by Cerberus; and Project Hercules, amounting to €6.4 billion in mortgages from Catalunya Banc, which was bought by Blackstone.

Meanwhile, Project Galerna is similar to Project Gregal, which Sabadell sold less than a year ago to three funds: Grove, D. E. Shaw and Lindorff. That portfolio comprised loans linked to consumers, without real estate guarantees, which had already been fully written off, and so all of the proceeds from the sale were recorded directly as gains.

Precedents

Besides Gregal, Sabadell closed two other major operations last year: Normandy, comprising €950 million in property developer loans, which was acquired by Oaktree, and which also proceeded from CAM’s EPA; and Voyager, comprising €800 million, which was purchased by the largest pension fund in Canada.

The latest operation launched by Sabadell joins others recently placed on the market by Sareb, BBVA, Cajamar and Kutxabank.

Original story: Vozpópuli (by Jorge Zuloaga)

Translation: Carmel Drake