Ferrovial, FCC, Acciona & ACS Are Building Houses Again

25 May 2017 – El Confidencial

A decade after they sold or wrote off their real estate arms, the country’s largest construction companies are now returning to the residential property development sector. Ferrovial, ACS, Acciona and FCC have regained their appetite for property and although they have different paces and strategies in mind, they have all definitively decided to revive their real estate divisions.

In the case of the group chaired by Rafael del Pino, which sold Ferrovial Inmobiliaria to Habitat for €2,200 million at the end of 2006, it will lay the first stone of this new strategic phase in Valdebebas. It owns plot 128A there, in what is one of the most important urban planning developments in the north of Madrid, and it plans to build between 200 and 300 homes on the site.

And that is just the tip of the iceberg, given that as the group’s CEO, Íñigo Meirás, acknowledged to this newspaper, the firm “is willing to become a property developer once again”. (…).

This strategy, combined with the gradual recovery in the real estate sector, has allowed residential construction work to account for 5% of the group’s total building portfolio, having closed last year at €442 million, up by 31.7% YoY. The group aspires to increase those numbers, by resuming its property development activity, which has caused it to analyse land operations in different areas to the north of Madrid.

FCC Real Estate also wants to make a similar move. The division, led for the last year and a half by Xavier Fainé Garriga, has decided to start developing half a million m2 of land that it owns in the Madrilenian town of Tres Cantos. The company has owned the plots for years, and its construction division will also participate in their development, along with the real estate subsidiary Realia, which will collaborate on the marketing side. (…).

Meanwhile, Acciona has a more ambitious plan, after it tried, two years ago, to divest its real estate arm, by listing it on the stock market or selling a stake in it to a fund – it has now ended up deciding to return to development. That was recognised by the firm’s Corporate Development Director, Juan Muro Lara, in March, when he announced the launch of 16 housing developments: 13 in Spain and the rest in Mexico and Poland.

In parallel, the group is finalising the transfer of its rental properties to Merlin, in a deal disclosed by El Confidencial in October, which will see the former’s exit from the real estate business. It also wants to push ahead with the sale of its hotels and office buildings through individual operations.

In the case of ACS, the firm is carrying out its strategy in the development segment through Cogesa, the historical subsidiary of the group, which stands out because it is the owner of the group’s two main corporate headquarters, the office buildings located in Las Tablas and on Avenida Pío XII in Madrid, and for owning sizeable land portfolios in areas such as Montecarmelo, Arroyo Fresno, Las Tablas, Carabanchel and Ensanche de Vallecas.

The turning point for this subsidiary, which is led by the brother of Florentino Pérez, Enrique, came two years ago, when it carried out a capital increase amounting to €44 million and then acquired one of the last plots of residential land in Montecarmelo for €2,200/m2. That figure turned the operation into one of the most onerous since the burst of the bubble, but is now seen in a very different light. (…).

Original story: El Confidencial (by Ruth Ugalde)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Losses From The Banks’ RE Arms Rose By 11% To €3,266M

14 March 2016 – El Economista

The banks’ real estate arms are still weighing down on the accounts in the sector. Despite the economic recovery and the improvement in prices, the property development companies owned by the financial entities recorded more losses last year than in 2014. Specifically, according to the available data, their combined losses increased by 11% to €3,266 million.

The reasons for this deterioration are the facts that: the volume of assets on their balance sheets is still growing, which means higher provisions, and that divestments are being made at prices that do not even cover management costs and taxes.

Homes and land are still moving onto the balance sheets of the banks at a high rate. In this way, the largest groups (Santander, BBVA, Bankia, CaixaBank, Sabadell and Popular) increased the volume of homes and land they own by 8% in 2015 to €62,163 million, before provisions and valuation adjustments.

In this context, the main owners of these assets are suffering from huge losses and are not forecasting to make any profits until 2017, at least. Everything will depend on the evolution of the economy over the next few months and the recovery of both real estate transactions and prices. In 2015, for the first time since the crisis began, house prices rose.

The real estate company that recorded the highest losses was the property arm of CaixaBank, which is one of the largest. BuildingCenter generated negative results of €1,427 million in 2015, which represented an increase of 11.4% compared with 2014. In the middle of last year, CaixaBank had to inject €1,600 million into its subsidiary to restore its equity. (…).

Although the property developer owned by the Catalan group suffered the greatest losses, the two main property developers owned by Ibercaja saw the highest rises  in their losses. Cerro Murillo and Inmuebles CAI’s losses shot up by 212%, due to the poor performance of the latter, which was inherited from the former Caja3. The losses of both companies amounted to €203 million in total. Ibercaja is trying to accelerate its sales and improve the administration of its real estate assets….to this end, it has sold its home and land management platform to Aktua, in an operation that will generate profits of €70 million for the entity.

Ibercaja was one of the few entities that had not sold its platform. BBVA and Sabadell are the only others that have not sold theirs yet either; they are retaining this administration in-house for the time being.

In fact, BBVA was one of two entities that managed to reduce the losses generated by its real estate arm. The two companies that own its homes and land, which operate under the name Anida, decreased their losses by 22.2%, to €658 million. In part that was due to the fact that the group, chaired by Francisco González managed to sell some of its assets with gains. (…).

The other developer that managed to reduce its losses last year was Liberbank, but its situation is different from those facing other players in the majority of the sector, given that the entity transferred the bulk of its assets to Sareb as part of the financial rescue plan and the properties it inherited from the former CCM are covered by the Deposits Guarantee Fund, up to a maximum of €2,475 million.

Some entities have tried to sell sizeable batches of properties, but these projects have been suspended or delayed due to the political uncertainty in Spain following the general elections and due to the instability in the market due to the slow down in China and the fall in the oil prices.

In this context, the banks will intensify house sales through their branches to individual buyers. One of the most ambitious projects has been proposed by Popular, which seeks to sell homes worth more than €2,800 million in 2016, as part of a plan to get rid of up to €8,000 million non-performing assets, through various means, to improve profitability.

Popular’s real estate arm, Aliseda, increased its losses by 13% in 2015, to €165 million. (…).

Original story: El Economista (by Fernando Tadeo)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Santander & BBVA Are Developing 600 RE Sites In Spain

30 June 2015 – Expansión

The crisis filled up financial institutions’ balance sheets with property, as banks foreclosed all kinds of real estate assets in exchange for the payment of debts. Now that the economic recovery in Spain is gaining strength, those same entities are taking the lead in the property development segment – completing half-built properties and constructing others from zero – in order to obtain returns on the land that they now own.

Together, Spain’s two largest banks, Santander and BBVA, are currently involved in 600 property development projects all over Spain. Their rates of completion vary between 5% and 100%. And those figures do not include projects that the banks are financing separately.

BBVA’s real estate arm, Anida, owns 293 developments, which once complete will contain 2,418 homes in total. The majority will be finished between now and the middle of 2016. The bank has taken charge of building 21 of these developments from scratch, using land that it had both foreclosed and acquired.

Meanwhile, Santander is constructing 300 developments. The entity chaired by Ana Botín, has a policy that it only begins construction work once 30% of the homes at a given site have been sold off-plan. In this way, it ensures that the locations are appropriate and have sufficient guaranteed demand.

In both cases, the potential purchaser of a home enjoys advantages when it comes to taking out a mortgage with the corresponding bank. For example, the banks are willing to offer financing for up to 100% of the appraisal value of homes in these cases, when they would normally offer a maximum of 80%.

With this strategy, the entities seek to accelerate a reduction in the losses generated by their real estate divisions. At Santander, those losses amounted to €95 million during Q1 2015, which represented a 35% decrease YoY and the lowest negative contribution recorded since the creation of the RE arm three yeas ago. The bank sold 2,500 real estate units, including homes, offices, garages and storerooms during the first quarter of the year.

At BBVA, the losses amounted to €154 million during the same period, which represented a YoY decrease of 37%. It sold 2,100 real estate units in total. The entity chaired by Francisco González expects that its property division will emerge from its loss-making position in around two years.

Original story: Expansión (by Alicia Crespo)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Top 6 Banks Lose €15,300M From Real Estate In 4 Years

10 March 2015 – El Economista

The real estate sector continues to be a major problem for financial institutions despite the economic recovery. The largest 6 banks lost another €3,027 million last year from their main property development companies, which together hold the bulk of the foreclosed assets, due to unpaid loans.

Following the results reported in 2014, Banco Santander, BBVA, CaixaBank, Sabadell, Popular and Bankinter have now suffered losses of more than €15,300 million in the last four years from their real estate arms.

Nevertheless, the rate of loss is shrinking due to the stabilisation of (house) prices, which have decreased by 40% on average, and the increased sales of homes and, even land. This is in addition to the provisions that have already been made, primarily in 2012, when the Government forced financial institutions to increase their coverage ratios substantially in the face of doubts in the market over the real status of the system’s balance sheet.

Thus, the deficit reported by these companies decreased by 36% with respect to 2013 and by 45% with respect to 2012, but it continues to be 43% higher than in 2011.

The real estate arm of CaixaBank, BuildingCenter, recorded the greatest losses in 2014, according to data published by the entities. Specifically, it generated a loss of €1,280 million. The Catalan group had to clean up its balance sheet by €1,900 million in the middle of last year, through a capital injection to adjust its balance sheet. Its losses have amounted to €3,000 million in the last two years.

Diminishing impact

Indeed, the Catalan group is the least optimistic about the property situation in our country. At the end of January, its CEO, Gonzalo Gortázar, predicted that the accounts of the real estate company “would continue to be significantly impacted” this year and next. Although, he did point out that the impact should diminish.

Canvives, owned by Popular, was the property developer that recorded the smallest losses: €52 million. The company, which used to be owned by Pastor, was merged into the group chaired by Ángel Ron. The deficit of this subsidiary has decreased by 91% in two years after the clean up. Popular holds another large real estate company in its portfolio, Aliseda, which generated additional losses of €146 million last year.

According to its management tem, Popular managed to sell property at a price slightly higher than its book value, after applying provisions, and it doubled its turnover (from this activity), to generate €1,500 million.

The bank, chaired by Ángel Ron, expects to increase the sale of property by 33% this year, as it gradually reduces this type of asset. It was the last entity to launch an aggressive price policy and it is intensifying (its efforts) to reduce the volume of homes and land it holds.

Santander’s property developer generated the some of the smallest losses last year. Just €119 million. This company’s deficit over the last four years amounts to €1,788 million in total.

Santander, like Popular and CaixaBank, is supported by funds, which strengthen the sale of their properties. The three banks have got rid of the majority of the capital (they held) in the platforms they use to manage this type of asset, with the objective of outsourcing the service and achieving gains with which to shore up their capital resources.

The strategy followed by BBVA, Sabadell and Bankinter is somewhat different; they have retained the overall management of their foreclosed properties, although in the case of the first two, the option of finding a specialist industrial partner has not been ruled out. Under no circumstances do these entities expect to partner up with any funds.

The volume of foreclosed assets increases

Although the volume of sales has accelerated, the balance of foreclosed assets is continuing to increase; although if we exclude the stakes held in property-related companies, this balance decreases for the first time since the crisis. In this sense, last year, Santander and BBVA succeeded in reducing the volume of homes and land in their portfolios. The former reduced its balance by 1.8%, to €7,851 million gross (excluding provisions), whilst the latter decreased it by 5%, to reach €13,016 million.

The six listed banks, excluding Bankia, which transferred the majority of its properties to Sareb during the financial bailout, together held foreclosed assets amounting to €70,000 million at the end of 2014, including the stakes they owned in property development companies. This means that the balance had increased by 9% with respect to 2013.

The forecasts made by the entities themselves indicate that all of this stock will have been liquidated within five or six years. Santander, for example, expects to decrease its balance by 20% each year, which means that it may have got rid of the entire volume of homes and land in its portfolio within five years. However, this will all depend on the economic conditions in our country and the recovery of the property sector, which is starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Original story: El Economista (by Fernando Tadeo)

Translation: Carmel Drake