The Reuben Brothers Win the Bid for Santander’s Ciudad Financiera

12 November 2018 – El Confidencial

Banco Santander’s Ciudad Financiera has a new owner. The Reuben brothers have won the bid to acquire the headquarters of the Spanish bank, whose former owner, Marme Inversiones, filed for creditors’ bankruptcy. The Asian investors, who are residents in London and lovers of Ibiza, submitted the highest bid for the land in Boadilla del Monte (Madrid), fighting off competition from the bank itself chaired by Ana Botín and from the Arab fund AGC Equity Partners.

That is the result of the bid after the envelopes containing the final offers from the three candidates were opened by the bankruptcy administrator. Although the final price is not known, the offers amounted to around €3 billion, according to sources close to the operation, one of the largest operations ever in the real estate market in Spain involving a single asset.

From now on, to validate the purchase by the Reuben brothers, the judge from the mercantile court who is conducting the sale will have to certify that the offer from the London-based millionaires is correct, fulfils all of the requirements and complies with all of the analysis regarding transparency and money laundering. Nevertheless, and even if the judge gives his blessing, Banco Santander may exercise its right of first refusal, which gives it the last word for recovering the headquarters, which it sold in 2008 to a group of investors, who were also British, and with whom it agreed to remain as the tenant for forty years.

For that, the €500 million that Santander has paid Marme by way of rental over the last ten years has to be deducted from the final price, as does the €300 million of intra-group debt that is no longer taken into consideration following the entry into bankruptcy of the company.

Movements in the courts

Because what the Reuben brothers are now buying is the asset of a company that, after borrowing funds to pay even the tax on the original acquisition in 2008, can no longer keep up repayments on the loan it requested to acquire Ciudad Financiera and so filed for bankruptcy. After a long bankruptcy administration process, numerous claims by the creditors in the courts and offers from several international sovereign funds, the Spanish entity wanted to acquire the land of its headquarters in Boadilla del Monte (Madrid), where almost 7,000 people work.

The creditors of Marme Inversiones 2007 include ING, HSH Nordbank, CaixaBank and Bayeriche Landesbank, which granted a loan amounting to €1.575 billion to Propinvest ten years ago in the form of a leaseback arrangement with Santander’s largest real estate asset. Other entities also participated in that loan, including Deutsche Postbank, Royal Bank of Scotland and Raffeisen Zentralbank, which started to sell their stakes in the loan to vulture funds in 2011, with significant discounts on the nominal values, when the owner started to acknowledge that it was unable to make the debt repayments.

One of those who purchased that debt was Blackstone, together with other similar funds, such as Centerbridge and Avenue Capital. The first two submitted an offer to acquire Ciudad Financiera on 17 September, but their proposal was lower than those offers by Santander (…).

The Reuben brothers, which have purchased almost 168 hectares of land in Ibiza over the last two years, have submitted their bid for the Ciudad Financiera through Ibiza Properties LTD. That company was constituted on 1 August, with a nominal value of just GBP 100, money that it will now have to increase to cover the payment to the bankruptcy administrator.

Original story: El Confidencial (by Agustín Marcos)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Blackstone Offers €3bn+ for Santander’s Ciudad Financiera HQ

10 September 2018 – El Confidencial

Santander’s Ciudad Financiera, the operating headquarters of the bank chaired by Ana Botín in Boadilla del Monte (Madrid), is being put up for auction five years after its owner, the company Marme Inversiones 2007, owned by several investment funds, filed for bankruptcy. After an arduous legal process whereby the bankruptcy administrator and the court managing the liquidation has released the asset, the central offices of Spain’s largest financial institution have been put on the market in search of a buyer.

According to financial sources close to the process, one of the most interested parties is Blackstone, the US hedge fund that has become Santander’s largest real estate partner after it purchased half of its portfolio of toxic assets last year. The US fund is negotiating the finishing touches for the presentation of its offer for the building where the bank employs almost 7,000 employees, including the office of the President, Ana Botín. According to the same sources, Blackstone is debating whether to participate in the auction by itself or to team up with the other creditors that supported the purchase of the Ciudad Financiera in 2008.

Of those, the presence of ING, HSH Nordbank, CaixaBank and Bayeriche Landesbank stand out, which 10 years ago granted a €1.575 billion loan to Propinvest to acquire Santander’s largest real estate asset on a “leaseback” basis. Other entities also participated in that loan including Deutsche Postbank, Royal Bank of Scotland and Raffeisen Zentralbank, which in 2011 started to sell its stake in the loan to vulture funds at significant discounts on the nominal value, when the owner started to realise that it could not afford to pay the debt.

One of the players that purchased that debt was Blackstone, together with other similar funds, such as Centerbridge and Avenue Capital. According to other sources, those investors are seriously considering submitting a joint offer on 17 September, the date on which the interested parties have to appear before the judge. That date is the one that has been set for the binding offers for all of the assets to be processed. If none are received, which is unlikely, then the Ciudad Financiera will have to be split up and sold off piecemeal.

According to these sources, Blackstone is now the main candidate, after two Arab groups placed tentative offers on the table that never proved successful due to legal wrangling and the lawsuits filed by some of the creditors, such as the Iranian Robert Tchenguiz. The investor, who owns several properties in London and is known for his idle lifestyle, was another person to take advantage of Propinvest’s bankruptcy to acquire debt at low prices and whereby become a significant creditor. Nevertheless, his problems with the Law – he ended up being arrested – have ruled him out of the process to take ownership of all of the Ciudad Financiera.

Arab interest

The player that came very close to acquiring Santander’s headquarters was AGC Equity Partners, a Kuwaiti fund with €3 billion under management, which received approval from Mercantile Court number 9, which was leading the bankruptcy of Marme. But its bid, which amounted to €2.5 billion, now needs to be updated, given that, according to various sources, the debt alone of the special purpose vehicle reached €2.8 billion, including senior and mezzanine. Therefore, the offers must exceed at least €3 billion, which means that this auction is going to turn into one of the largest real estate operations of the year.

The attempt by AEG, which was suspended when Ana Botín exercised the right of first refusal over Ciudad Financiera, came at the same time as the bid from Aabar, a company from Abu Dhabi, owned by IPIC, the owner of Cepsa, now renamed Mubadala. According to those sources, that fund is no longer interested in the auction and Santander has no intention of exercising its preferential right, as acknowledged by official sources at the Spanish entity.

The main attraction of Ciudad Financiera is that Santander, which financed the first operation with a loan amounting to €304.6 million to pay the VAT on the purchase, has committed to remain as the tenant of the property for the next 40 years, which means that the rental income is guaranteed.

Original story: El Confidencial (by Agustín Marco)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Five Funds Buy Debt of the Landlord of Santander

9/07/2014 – Expansion

At least five opportunistic funds bid for the seat of the next landlord of Banco Santander. Värde Partners, GSO (a fund of Blackstone), Centerbridge, Canyon and Monar have purchased around one forth of the €1.9 billion debt of Propinvest, borrowed for buying the “Ciudad Financiera de Santander”, the bank´s headquarters in Boadilla del Monte (Madrid). The present landlord voluntarily filed for the insolvency process.

Its main lenders were Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), as well as CaixaBank, Deutsche Postbank, ING, Bayerische Landesbank, HSH Nordbank and Raiffeisen which lent €1.575 billion. Some of them decided to leave before the arrangements and sold the debt to these funds.

According to sources with knowledge of the operation, the convention between Propinvest and the creditors might not be drawn before 2015. One of the solutions is the sale of the “Financial City”.

Santander holds a pre-emptive right in such case, therefore the bank may recover the ownership of the property with a discount. Also, a proposal by the lenders to swap the debt for assets, converting them into new landlords of Santander is not ruled out.

The entity pays at least a €82 million rent each year, as per the latest accounts facilitated by Marme Inversiones 2007, a Spanish arm of Propinvest. The “Ciudad Financiera” spreads over 160 hectares with Santander´s headquarters taking over 400.000 constructed square meters, including a hotel accommodation, an information center, a kindergarden, sports facilities and a golf course. The sale-and-leaseback agreement was signed in 2008 for the next 40 years.

Apart from the vulture funds, also Robert Tchenguiz and Abu Dhabi fund Aabar Investments take part in the bidding.

 

Original article: Expansión (by Jorge Zuloaga)

Translation: AURA REE