Morenés & Pepa Launch a New RE Fund with Warren Buffet

19 January 2018 – El Confidencial

Juan Pepa (pictured above left), the man who brought Lone Star to Spain, and Felipe Morenés, the son of Ana Botín and executive of the Texan fund for five years, are working together again. The two directors have just launched Stoneshield Capital, a firm that plans to invest €300 million in the Spanish real estate sector.

According to sources in the know, the two partners already have €200 million of capital, money that proceeds from: their own assets, some of Lone Star’s institutional investors and the famous financier Warren Buffet, who has decided to back them in this venture, although the parties involved did not want to confirm that information.

Unlike in the case of Lone Star, which has an opportunistic profile, Morenés and Pepa now want to focus on more conservative operations, which will limit the level of indebtedness of the new fund to around 50%, meaning that its investor capacity will reach the aforementioned €300 million.

The plans of these two partners are already very well advanced, with several operations on the table under analysis, and with the aim of investing all of that money in just a year, in other words, during the course of 2018, to take advantage of the current cycle.

Although the bulk of Stoneshield’s operations will be carried out in the residential segment, the firm is also interested in acquiring hotels, offices and commercial assets, according to the same sources.

Agreed departure

In November, in an email sent only to his circle of trust, Pepa announced that he was leaving Lone Star and that he would be taking a two-month sabbatical in his home country, Argentina, although in that email he also hinted that after Christmas he would be back in the news in Spain.

Letting that time pass was one of the commitments that Pepa agreed with Lone Star. That firm was already pursuing its exit strategy when, last summer, Santander put Popular’s €30 billion real estate asset portfolio on the market.

The Texan fund, led by Pepa and Morenés, fought to the end to acquire those assets, which would have resulted in Lone Star’s continuation in Spain. But Blackstone’s triumph meant that the fund decided to continue with its policy to close the cycle and so Pepa and Morenés opted to put their own plans into play.

Then, according to the sources, the two parties agreed to wait for Lone Star to complete its divestment from Neinor before moving actively in the Spanish market. The US fund sold its final 12.5% stake in the real estate company last week.

Morenés, meanwhile, has also left Lone Star, according to Vozpópuli, and the two partners are now working to create a team of around 10 people with whom they plan to operate with the same speed and element of surprise that characterised Lone Star when it first arrived in Spain.

Original story: El Confidencial (by Ruth Ugalde)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Investors On The Hunt For Prime RE Assets

20 April 2015 – Expansión

Opportunities / The Spanish real estate sector has aroused interest from all types of purchasers, from those that are more opportunistic in nature to those that are seeking lower risk. Offices, shops and shopping centres are the most sought-after assets, but hotels and logistics centres offer the best returns.

The volume of investment has increased from just over €3,000 million to more than €8,500 million in only 12 months. That has been the evolution recorded by the non-residential real estate segment, which reflects the highest level of interest from all kinds of investors in Spain. Thus, the Spanish market has become the second most attractive country for investment in Europe, according to the consultancy CBRE.

But, what are these investors looking for in Spain? Based on the nature of the deals closed last year, offices and commercial assets (both shopping centres and high street stores) are the most sought after. “The transactions that spark the most interest have a value of between €40 million and €50 million, rely on financing for 50-60% (of the price) and generate an initial return of between 5% and 7%. Investors are looking for buildings with: occupancy rates of more than 70%; solvent tenants; and (lease) contracts lasting for around 6 years”, explain sources at JLL, based on data collected in a survey prepared together with the Iese Business School from more than 100 investors.

Excess demand for buildings, and for offices and shopping centres in particular, has led to “very competitive processes for star assets, i.e. those that are best placed in terms of location or that have high rentals, as well as good buildings that require management to improve their profitability”, explain sources at Catella. “Socimis and US funds are very active, along with institutional funds. All of them are creating strong investor pressure”, they add.

The fierce competition has meant that offices and commercial assets no longer offer such high returns, and so many investors have started to invest in other kinds of assets, such as logistics and industrial centres and hotels. Thus, whilst deals involving offices in prime locations offer a return of 5.5%, well-located industrial assets generate a return of 8.25% and logistics centres in secondary areas produce returns of up to 9.5%, explain sources at Deloitte Real Estate.

In the hotel segment, the experts predict that the volume of investment in 2015 will exceed that recorded last year (€1,081 million) thanks to deals involving distressed assets and the activity of debt portfolios, given the shortage of attractive assets.

Renovation

Another possibility being considered by investors looking to enter the Spanish market and make a good return is the recovery of out-of-date properties or those without good lease contracts, through their renovation. “On the one hand, Socimis are looking to purchase offices, logistics assets and shopping centres that guarantee a return of between 6% and 7.5%. On the other hand, we have the real estate funds owned by private equity firms, which are looking for riskers assets that offer higher returns, such as properties that require renovation or land that needs developing. The expected returns in those cases can exceed 15%”, explain sources at Deloitte RE.

“Investors are becoming increasingly sophisticated and demanding. As has happened in other European countries, the most efficient buildings are going to be the key and, in the case of the financial district in Madrid, they have the lowest availability rates in Europe for that type of asset, which opens an important niche, both for investment as well as for the renovation of existing properties”, say source at Knight Frank.

Original story: Expansión (by R. Ruiz and Y. Blanco)

Translation: Carmel Drake