INE: 25% More Companies Operating in the RE Sector in 1 Year

25 June 2018 – Eje Prime

The new bonanza phase in the real estate sector is triggering the constitution of new companies and, in just one year, Spain registered 33,503 more companies dedicated to real estate activities. According to the latest structural survey of companies in the service sector of Spain’s National Institute of Statistics (INE), the sector contained a total of 169,031 companies in 2016, which represents an increase of 24.7% in just one year.

The property rental segment was a net generator of new companies. Specifically, companies dedicated to the rental of real estate assets increased by 24.3%, to more than 119,400 companies. By contrast, the number of companies dedicated to property sales fell by 10% to just 926 companies.

Similarly, companies undertaking real estate activity on behalf of third parties amounted to a total of 48,665 in 2016, which represents an increase of 26.7% in the census of companies dedicated to this activity in just one year.

The significant increase in the number of companies was not accompanied in 2016 by an analogous increase in the turnover of companies in the real estate sector, although the trend was positive. For the whole of the sector, revenues amounted to €25.7 billion, up by 5.4% compared to the previous year.

Curiously, despite the boom in the constitution of companies, the revenues of rental property companies stagnated: all of the active companies in the sector recorded turnover of €17.5 billion in 2016, down by 0.8%.

By contrast, whilst some of the active companies disappeared, the aggregate turnover of the companies dedicated to the sale and purchase of properties soared by 42.5% to €1.7 billion.

Generation of employment, on the rise 

INE’s data also reflects the evolution of the personnel employed by service companies. In this case, the real estate sector as a whole saw its total workforce rise by 15.3% in 2016, to 238,428 workers.

Of that figure, companies dedicated to the sale and purchase of properties accounted for just 2,264 workers, compared to the 142,378 employees who were working for property rental companies.

In terms of real estate activities for third parties, the number of employees amounted to 93,786 people, up by 18.4% compared to a rise in turnover of 16.4% to €6.6 billion.

Original story: Eje Prime (by C. De Angelis)

Translation: Carmel drake

College of Registrars Creates New CPI Indicator for RE Sector: the IRAI

4 December 2017 – El Confidencial

The recovery of the real estate sector is now a reality that nobody doubts. In fact, activity in the sector in Spain has been growing in a sustained way since 2014, far from the minimum levels of 2013, but also a long way from the peak heights. The volume of – new build and second-hand – transactions is rising; more mortgages are being granted; property prices are recovering; and new build permits are increasing. Moreover, the number of companies linked to the sector filing for creditor bankruptcy is also decreasing. Each one of these parameters has its own indicators proceeding from different sources (e.g. Spain’s National Institute of Statistics (INE), real estate websites, appraisal companies, Ministry of Development…), that show the evolution of those specific parameters.

Nevertheless, from now on, there is going to be a new indicator that groups them all together and, through a complex weighting system, shows the overall evolution of activity in the real estate sector. This new indicator is the Real Estate Activity Registry Index (IRAI), compiled by the College of Registrars. According to its creators, it is set to be called the CPI of the real estate market, given that its preparation adopts a very similar methodology to that used by INE to measure inflation.

The indicator takes the year 2003 as the base year (100); it serves as the reference for analysing the evolution of real estate activity. In this way, for example, during the third quarter of this year, the IRAI amounted to 98.26% points, 30% below the maximum levels of 2007, the year the real estate bubble burst. During the first 3 months of that year, the index reached its maximum, 139.90 points. Nevertheless, since the historical minimum of 68, to which it fell in 2013, the sector has risen by 45% to date. Like in the case of CPI, the IRAI can be softened or purified to avoid seasonality, in which case, it amounts to 94.34 points.

This new index is a synthesis of different indicators. It includes real estate transactions, mortgage financing and, in addition to the above, another set of commercial activity indicators, such as the number of company constitutions, economic variables from filed annual accounts and bankrupt companies, in all cases relating to the construction and real estate sectors. For its launch, the College of Registrars has constituted a Committee of Experts, advisors from the college in each aspect listed above, who have been responsible for preparing the index and determining the weighting of each one of the indicators in the index. The IRAI will be prepared on a quarterly basis (…).

Evolution of the IRAI so far this year

The variation in the IRAI since January has been an increase of 10.12%, representing the cumulative impact of the ownership element (9.55%) and the commercial element (0.57%). In other words, the part corresponding to house sales and financing has pushed up the index by the most, compared to the boost from commercial activity. In December last year, the IRAI amounted to 89 points, compared to 98.26 now.

In this way, the groups with the greatest positive cumulative impact so far this year have been sales (cumulative impact of 6.98%) due to the significant rise in the number of sales (cumulative impact of 6.11%), especially of new and second-hand homes with growth rates of 31.87% and 27.06% and cumulative impacts of 1.19% and 4.14%, respectively.

Sales prices also grew by 3.74% (impact of 0.87%) with the price of second-hand homes having a greater impact (impact of 0.9% with a growth rate of 5.91%). Meanwhile, mortgages (cumulative impact of 2.56%) due to the significant increase in the number of mortgages (cumulative impact of 2.05%), especially for new and second-hand homes with growth rates of 21.65% and 15.42% and cumulative impacts of 0.92% and 0.94%, respectively.

From the commercial perspective, the greatest boost to activity has come from the decrease in the number of creditor bankruptcies involving both construction companies, which have decreased by 83%, and real estate companies, which have fallen by 57% (…).

Original story: El Confidencial

Translation: Carmel Drake

House Prices Forecast To Rise By 5% In 2017

6 June 2017 – Expansión

Growth / The sharp fall in house prices during the crisis years, combined with the pent-up demand, the reactivation of mortgage lending and the recovery of the Spanish economy means that property developers, appraisal companies, real estate companies, funds and consultants alike are all predicting fresh rises in house prices this year. Nevertheless, the professionals stress that the growth in prices will vary by area, with Madrid and Barcelona leading the recovery.

In 2016, house prices rose by 4.7% in Spain on average, according to the National Institute of Statistics (INE). That growth rate was the highest since the burst of the real estate bubble, a decade ago. And the experts believe that that figure will not only be repeated in 2017, it will actually be bettered. “According to CBRE’s Trend Barometer which reflects the views of the 100 most senior directors in the real estate sector, one out of every two surveyed believe that house prices will grow by between 3% and 6% in 2017 at the national level, whereas only 21% shared that optimism in 2016. It is the first time since the start of the crisis that the experts are forecasting a general rise in house prices in Spain”, explained Adolfo Ramírez Escudero, President, CBRE Spain. (…).

According to the majority of the experts, the increase will amount to around 5% this year…(…).

Although all of the experts are optimistic about the overall trend in prices, several are quick to point out that this increase will vary by region. “The recovery in prices is proving selective and heterogeneous. Although prices are soaring in certain places, they have still not bottomed out in other markets”, said Pedro Soria, at Tinsa.

“Salaries have not risen to a level that makes us think that prices are going to soar, although there are some exceptions in specific areas of the large regional capitals where we have detected strong demand”, said David Martínez, CEO at Aedas Homes.

By area, Madrid and Barcelona account for the best forecasts in terms of price rises. (…).

Similarly, in addition to the two major cities, the positive outlook is starting to spread to new areas. “Prices are on the rise primarily in the major capitals and on the islands”, said Sandra Daza, at Gesvalt.

The improvements in the macroeconomic variables mean that the good feelings about the housing market this year are also expected to have an impact over the coming years. “House prices are going to continue to rise over the next few years. This year, we expect to see an average rise of around 5%, but the shortage of buildable land in those areas where demand exists means that we can expect to see higher rates of growth in the future”, said Javier de Oro, at Aliseda, the real estate arm of Banco Popular.

In this sense, and despite the price rises that have been seen in recent quarters, the experts point out that we are still a long way from the figures seen before the burst of the bubble. “We are entering a period of growth, which may last three or four years. It is true that there are cycles, but I don’t think that we’ll ever see the price decreases of the past again”, said Juan Antonio Gómez-Pintado, President of the property developer Vía Célere and of the sector organisations Asprima and APCE. (…).

Whilst in the case of new homes, the upward trend in prices seems clear, in the case of second-hand properties, a recovery is also being seen but at a slower pace. “So far this year, our real estate index has been registering very slight YoY decreases, of just a few tenths of a percentage point, which shows us that second-hand house prices in Spain are stabilising”, said Beatriz Toribio, Head of Research at Fotocasa. (…).

Original story: Expansión (by Rocío Ruiz)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Gentrification Drives Up House Prices In Barcelona

13 March 2017 – El Periódico

It never rains but it pours: property prices in Barcelona are rising in a continuous and alarming way; a bullish process that echoes the trend seen in residential rental prices in recent times. Only those who are very optimistic – or very cynical – will be able to argue that these price rises are not a reflection of the improvement in the economy and that the laws of the market are as follows: the more pressure in terms of demand (from property buyers), the more the supply benefits (owners and real estate companies alike). According to all indications, the worst of the crisis is over, but the reality of the daily economy is far from the one seen during the years before the bubble burst, in 2007-2008 (and probably will not be in the next few years): average salaries have decreased, employment is more precarious and young people looking to emancipate themselves are finding it very difficult to put a roof over their heads.

But Barcelona is fashionable, a phenomenon that seems unlikely to end (nor would that be desirable) – and moreover, available land for new homes is in short supply. The combination of these two factors is fuelling the purchase of properties as investments, in many cases by foreigners and, is leading to a price spiral that, according to reliable samples, means that 80% of the homes currently up for sale cost at least €200,000. Below that price, properties abound only in the neighbourhoods of Nou Barris, Sant Andreu and Horta-Guinardó.

The Town Hall, led by Ada Colau, has taken some initiatives to alleviate these perverse effects of Barcelona’s appeal, but its legal and economic capacity is limited. The problem requires coordinated action with other administrations if a mockery is not to be made of the Constitution, which establishes that: all Spaniards have the right to decent housing and that the public authorities must ensure as such, “by regulating the use of land in accordance with the general interest to avoid speculation”.

Barcelona, at the forefront in many periods in history, still has time to show that success does not have to denaturalise a city to the point of turning against its inhabitants and driving them out through a large-scale gentrification process. Nobody wants Barcelona to end up like Venice, a paradigm of a city, with lots of glamour and many visitors but with increasingly little soul.

Original story: El Periódico

Translation: Carmel Drake

The Banks Want To Regain Control Of Their RE Servicers

14 October 2016 – El Confidencial

Just three years after selling the management of their real estate companies to large international funds, Spain’s large banks are engaged in a widespread movement to try to regain control of those companies once again and as such, achieve absolute freedom to sell their properties by other means.

The reason? There are basically two motives. On the one hand, the banks consider that more profitable options exist to allow them to divest property without penalising their capital; and on the other hand, they want to save the management commissions that they are having to pay the funds for taking over the reins of these real estate companies, known in the jargon of the sector as “servicers”, and whose fees rise in line with the volume of assets managed.

Looking back…in December 2012, Banesto agreed the sale of Aktua to Centerbridge; in September 2013, Caixabank sold 51% of Servihabitat to TPG and Bankia sold 100% of its real estate company to Cerberus; two months later, Santander reached an agreement with Apollo to sell 85% of Altamira and Popular sold Värde and Kennedy Wilson 51% of Aliseda. Sabadell and BBVA, the other two large Spanish banks, chose to continue to manage their assets internally; the first through Solvia and the second through Anida.

Nevertheless, the majority of these marriages of convenience have been suffering from serious tensions for a while now; and these differences of opinion are causing the banks to begin to try to regain control of their real estate companies. According to El Confidencial, Popular is trying to reach an agreement with Värde to repurchase Aliseda and transfer its assets to the so-called “Proyect Sunrise”, a kind of bad bank through which it seeks to divest up to €6,000 million.

Santander has also been engaged in negotiations for severals months with Apollo, from which it already snatched a series of assets from the former real estate fund Banif to transfer them to Metrovacesa, the real estate company that has just finished merging its properties (not its land) with Merlin. In fact, that operation is an example of the type of project that the sector is now committed to, and which has caused all kinds of rumours to circulate about potential alliances.

For example, the entity chaired by Ana Patricia Botín and BBVA have found another way of getting rid of almost 7,000 homes (between the two of them) in the form of Testa, the rental housing subsidiary owned by Merlin. The two banks are deconsolidating all of the real estate assets that they are transferring to both Merlin and Testa, because they hold minority stakes, and this allows them to generate liquidity because the former is a listed company and the latter will be listed on the MAB from next year and on the main stock exchange within five years.

In the case of Servihabitat, Caixabank will be able to start to seriously consider a movement of this kind from next year, given that for the first four years (of the ten-year duration of their alliance), TPG has a special grace period, according to sources familiar with the agreement.

The case of Bankia is special, because the bulk of its assets were transferred to Sareb and it accounts for the real turnover of Haya Real Estate, the “servicer” created by Cerberus, given that the company was created with €12,200 million of the entity’s real estate assets and with €36,000 million from Sareb. Moreover, the fund acquired the companies Reser Subastas and Gesnova from Bankia.

Last year, Gesnova lost the entire portfolio of contracts that it held with the former real estate fund of Bankia, which was sold to Goldman Sachs, a blow that was compounded by Sareb’s decision to award Solvia the management of the portfolio of foreclosed assets that until then had been managed by Gesnova. In total, Haya saw a quarter of its revenues go up in smoke.

“All of the banks are looking at how to regain control of their servicers because they are realising that better alternatives exist, above all following the Metrovacesa operation, and in light of the fact that the real estate market is recovering”, said one source. “Everyone is talking to everyone else, lots of potential alternatives are being presented, which may or may not materialise, but the reality is that there is going to be a lot of movement in the world of the servicers over the next two years” said one executive from the sector.

Meanwhile, the funds are willing to withdraw from their investments provided the entities are willing to stump up the cash. In the case of Apollo, the figure is likely to exceed €1,000 million and in the case of Värde €800 million, according to sources. (…).

Original story: El Confidencial (by R. Ugalde)

Translation: Carmel Drake

JLL: Hotel Inv’t Amounted To €1,030M In First 7M 2016

3 August 2016 – Expansión

(…). Hotel investment in Spain amounted to €1,030 million during the 7 months to July 2016, which represents a 41% decrease compared with the same period last year. Nevertheless, it also represents the second highest figure recorded since 2007, according to a report prepared by JLL.

Specifically, as at 31 July this year, 81 (hotel) assets had been sold, for a combined investment volume of €1,030 million through 68 operations, compared with 92 assets sold as at July last year, with a combined investment volume of €1,752 million through 55 operations.

The most noteworthy operations so far this year have featured: Hotel Villa Magna, which was acquired by the Turkish group Dogus for an estimated €180 million; and Hotel Pullman Barcelona Skipper, which was purchased by the Saudí Royal Family for €90 million.

Excluding those two operations, Spanish investors accounted for 80% of the total volume invested in Spain.

In this vein, the most active investors in the hotel market have been the investment fund HI Partners (a subsidiary of Sabadell) and Hispania, which have completed transactions amounting to €110 million and €71 million, respectively.

Meanwhile, on the sell side, hotel groups have accounted for 41% of all hotel assets sold, followed by real estate companies (26%) and private investors (13%).

For Manuel Climent, Vice-President of JLL Hotels & Hospitality Group, the decrease in investment this year reflects, in part, the lower number of hotel portfolio transactions sold this year, after they soared in Spain in 2015.

Specifically, last year, up to eleven portfolios were sold, containing 74 hotels in total, for a combined investment volume of €1,450 million. So far this year, seven portfolios have been sold, containing 21 hotels and a combined investment of €174 million.

Climent forecasts that activity will intensify in terms of hotel portfolio transactions during the second half of the year, with HI Partners and Hispania leading the way.

For Climent, the moratorium in Barcelona has caused lots of investors who had purchased assets with a view to converting them into hotels, to become more cautious again. By contrast, some owners have put their hotel assets up for sale as they think that now is a good time to sell, given the lack of supply, which is raising prices in a space that is still very attractive for tourism.

The Vice-President of JLL Hotels & Hospitality Group considers that, although some important transactions are expected to be closed before year end, total investment volumes will fall below last year’s record of €2,740 million.

Original story: Expansión (by Rebeca Arroyo)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Aguirre Newman: Office Inv’t Amounted To €5,400M In 2015

23 February 2016 – Expansión

Madrid and Barcelona / Investment volumes amounted to €5,400 million in 2015, driven by the Socimis and institutional investors.

During 2015, the office market experienced one of the best years in its history, as far as total investment is concerned, with two main regions of activity: Madrid and Barcelona. Together, the investment volume in those two markets amounted to €5,400 million, which represents a return to levels not seen since 2007, according to a report prepared by Aguirre Newman.

According to the report, the investment level achieved is the highest ever in the historical series, along with the level observed in 2007, and represented a two-fold increase in the investment figure recorded in 2014. Madrid accounted for 83% of the total transacted volume, whilst the remaining 17% was centred in Barcelona.

The CEO of Aguirre Newman, Jaime Pascual-Sanchiz, explained to Expansión that several factors contributed to this investment drive, including a recovery in rents, interest generated in the market and the renovation of buildings.

During the year, the main domestic and overseas banks that specialise in financing real estate operations, granted financing in a more active way, with fewer restrictions and more competitive margins.

The sales side was led primarily by real estate companies and institutional investors, who wanted to sell their portfolios, in some cases to leave Spain altogether.

Madrid

By market, demand for office space in Madrid recorded a 32.6% increase in gross area leased in 2015, to reach 527,967 m2, compared with 432,195 m2 in 2014. Last year, an overall increase was observed in all of the areas analysed, with an average annual increase of 6.6%.

In terms of the year ahead, around 595,000 m2 of office space is expected to be leased in Madrid during 2016.

Barcelona

Meanwhile, in Barcelona, the gross surface area leased increased by 41.6% in 2015 compared to 2014, to reach 410,447 m2. Moreover, as a result of strong demand and the “almost non-existent” supply, rents improved significantly, with an average annual increase of 9.1% over the last twelve months.

In terms of asset type, 70% of the operations closed in the market in Barcelona may be classified as medium to high risk. In the case of the Spanish capital, 80% of operations may be considered as medium risk.

The forecasts for new projects over the next two years include 56,700 m2 of new office space coming onto the market in 2016 and an additional 60,000 m2 of new office space in 2017.

Outlook

The report notes that, in an environment of political stability, investors’ interest will remain “very high” in 2016, regardless of the type of investor. In this regard, Pascual-Sanchiz believes that investors are currently more concerned with international issues, such as the crisis in China and the falling oil price, than with the political situation in Spain.

The Partner considers that competition in the sector is going to be more closely linked to a “war” of quality than a war in terms of prices. He also expects the Socimis, and to a lesser extent, the investment funds, to continue to be key players in the market over the coming year.

Original story: Expansión (by Rebeca Arroyo)

Translation: Carmel Drake

RE Companies Gain Strength On Stock Market

11 May 2015 – Expansión

Markets / Colonial is the clearest bet for experts with a medium or long-term outlook

Seven years after the start of the crisis, almost twenty real estate companies are still trading on the stock exchange on a daily basis. A depleted army of survivors from the burst of the huge property bubble, which have now been joined by the Socimis – the newly created companies that specialise in real estate and enjoy significant tax benefits. They are revitalising a sector that has made an unprecedented journey across the desert, resulting in a loss in value of more than €40,000 million in stock exchange terms.

Together, the listed real estate companies (excluding those that have been suspended from trading, such as Martinsa Fadesa and Reyal Urbis), currently have a market value of around €9,000 million. That figure is light years away from the record figure of more than €50,000 million recorded in 2007. Today, the companies in the sector are smaller, their shares are much less liquid and their prices are more volatile.

Strong revaluation

After a long, tough period of adjustment, which is still underway in many cases, the sector has started to recover in 2015. The share price of every real estate company has increased this year (from minimal lows), with the exception of the smallest Socimi in the market (Promorent) and they have accumulated an average gain of 25%. Is this increase in share prices convincing? Is it time to allow real estate companies back into (our investment) portfolios?

Experts agree that it is too soon to bet heavily on the real estate companies, since they still represent risky investments, due to their high degree of indebtedness, plus their results do not entice investors to take positions. Nevertheless, they believe that the option of incorporating property companies into (investment) portfolios on a step-by-step basis is appealing, to take advantage of the potential reactivation of the real estate business in the heat of the economic recovery.

“It is not yet the best time to invest in a significant way in real estate. That ideal time will come during the final phase of the growth cycle of the Spanish economy, which is still in a process of recovery”, says Jaime Díez, from XTB, who says, nevertheless that “now may be a good time to start entering the sector, but in a moderate way, with portfolios investing 5% to 10% of their total funds in such companies. Over the long term, it will be interesting but we should always bear in mind that it is a high risk bet”.

Risk profile

Depending on the profile of the investor, Victoria Torre, from Self Bank, recommends investing no more than 5% to 20% of a portfolio in real estate assets. “If we consider an investment in the sector, we would do it from a medium-long term perspective”, she says, noting that there are “various factors that point to the recovery of the business, such as the slight increase in mortgage lending, the recovery in sales, the reduction in the housing stock and the increase in house prices”. In any case, analysts are very selective. Díez believes that the real estate company Colonial is the clearest bet amongst the traditional real estate companies, which have accumulated significant increases so far this year. Quabit’s share price has increased by almost 100%; Inmobiliaria del Sur (which has just signed an agreement with Anida, the real estate arm of BBVA, to develop a large housing development project in Sevilla) has increased its share price by almost 60%; Urbas by 53%; Realia by 41%; and Renta Corporación by 34%. Moreover, Colonial itself and Testa (which is contemplating a full/partial IPO) have both accumulated double-digit gains.

Original story: Expansión (by E. G.)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Bankia’s Divestment Plan Comes To An End After 400+ Sales

20 April 2015 – Expansión

97% of the plan has been completed / In two years, the entity has transferred 200 investments, 130 real estate companies and 80 loan portfolios, amounting to more than €15,000 million.

Over the last two years, Bankia’s divestment team has had to go to the notary’s office every other day. The intense activity in terms of the sale of investments and loan portfolios has resulted in 400+ transactions since 2013 and the entity is now close to fulfilling the mandate imposed on it by Brussels.

In total, Bankia has transferred 200 financial and industrial investments; 130 real estate companies; and 80 problem loan portfolios, according to sources close to the entity.

Thus, Bankia has already exceeded the target it was set of divesting more than €50,000 million non-strategic assets – by the end of 2014, the figure was close to €59,000 million – but not all of the companies that were agreed as part of its rescue have been transferred. 3% of the plan agreed as part of the rescue still needs to be completed.

In this final sprint, which Bankia has until 2017 to complete, the entity will have to sell off dozens (tens) of real estate and industrial companies, many of which have filed for liquidation and have hardly any value.

Strong reputation

Over the last two years, the team at Bankia, led by the Director of Investments, Manuel Lagares, has earned the respect of foreign investors by closing the sale of portfolios worth €10,000 million and financial and industrial investments, worth €5,500 million.

Although Bankia was forced to make these divestments, the funds value the fact that it is one of the few entities that has not held back from sales processes and that it stands out as one of the best entities to have adapted to demand. Thus, overseas investors recognise that one of the first doors that they call at upon arriving in Spain is that of the bank chaired by José Ignacio Gorigolzarri (pictured above), as well as those of Sareb and the Frob.

Although Bankia has now almost completed its divestment plan, the entity continues to be very active in the market, as it seeks to improve its balance sheet and free up non-productive assets.

Some of the largest transactions conducted by the team at Bankia include the sales of its shares in: Iberdrola, which it sold for €1,500 million; Mapfre, for which it obtained €1,250 million; IAG, for which it earned €675 million; and Indra, which it transferred for €337 million.

Recently, the entity had decided one of the great real estate battles in recent years, which involved Realia, where it agreed to sell its 25% stake to Carlos Slim. It may also decide to transfer its stake in Globalvia soon, for which it is negotiating, together with FCC, with the Malaysian sovereign fund Khazanah Nasional Berhad.

Other transactions

Another transaction in the pipeline involves the sale of City National Bank of Florida, its North American subsidiary, which is pending authorisation by the Federal Reserve.

Together with its investments, Bankia has also transferred lines of business such as its asset manager, which was acquired by Cerberus; and Bankia Bolsa, which it transferred to GVC.

Original story: Expansión (by Jorge Zuloaga)

Translation: Carmel Drake

The New Owners Of Gran Vía, Madrid

5 February 2015 – Expansión

Amancio Ortega acquired Gran Vía, 32 for €400 million in January 2015.

Axa Real Estate broke records when it paid almost €20,000 per square metre for Gran Vía, 37.

Rental prices on the street have appreciated by 40% since before the crisis.

The opportunities for refurbishing buildings and adding value are attractive for many investors.

In the last year and a half, investors, real estate companies and hotel chains have all acquired buildings on the street.

The iconic street is divided into three main sections: from Alcalá to Fuencarral, from Fuencarral to Callao and from Callao to Plaza de España.

The second section has the highest demand and is where many flagship stores are located, with rents of up to €185 per square metre per month.

Tenants of the premises between Callao and Plaza de España pay an average rent of €120/sqm/month and those between Fuencarral and Banco de España pay an average of €60/sqm/month.

The 100-year old Madrilenian street has become an object of desire for many investors, attracted by the growth potential of its rents for office buildings and, more importantly, for the retail spaces that house many of the world’s fashion giants.

More than 10 buildings have been sold on the same street in barely 15 months. The real estate activity on Gran Vía is frenetic. The 100-year old Madrilenian artery is living a golden age, reflecting the current boom in the investor market in Spain, above all in the centres of Madrid and Barcelona.

Along the 1.3km length of Gran Vía, investors ranging from Amancio Ortega, the owner of Inditex and the insurance company Axa, to Mexican investors and hotel groups, such as the Spanish chain VP Hotels, have all bought properties in recent months. These investments have driven the volume of acquisitions through the roof, to €1,185 million on one single street in a year and a half. “Almost every player in the market is showing an interest in Gran Vía, including developers, funds, private investors, real estate companies and hotel specialists”, explains Elvira Rodríguez, Director of High Street Investment at the consulting firm Aguirre Newman.

And it is not only the profile of investors that is diverse, so too are the properties they are buying, and as a result, the prices being paid. The firm GLL paid €54 million for the premises located at number 48, whilst Pontegadea spent €400 million for the building at number 32, which is currently undergoing renovation work and which will soon be the home of another fashion chain, Primark.

Why do all these investors want to buy property on this street?

“The investors that are buying on Gran Vía today have confidence in the potential that the street has both in terms of rental yields and the appreciation in property values. Another important aspect that has seduced some investors is the opportunity that the street offers for refurbishing some of the buildings and generating value through their active management”, say Aguirre Newman.

One of other main attractive features is the street’s focus as a visitor attraction, both for residents of Madrid as well as tourists. “From the point of view of retail, the street has shown counter-cyclical behaviour, since during the years of crisis, rental yields on the retail outlets on the best section of Gran Vía grew by more than CPI and no downwards adjustments have been observed”.

According to a report by Aguirre Newman, Gran Vía is the only high street where rents have not only not declined during the crisis; they have actually increased, by 40% since 2006. In 2014 alone, rents increased by 9.3%, on average, to amount to almost €200 (€185) per square metre per month in the areas with highest demand.

Landmark stores

If the Madrilenian street is enjoying good times, then the behaviour of the section between Fuencarral and Callao is positively boomly. There, fashion giants, such as H&M, Zara, Mango and Primark have stores (or are preparing to open one in the case of the Irish firm). “Rents in Gran Vía will increase by more than 10% this year along the best section. In terms of new retail brands, some international companies still do not have a flagship store in Spain and may move in during 2015”, says Rodríguez.

Therefore, and even though almost half – 46% to be exact – of the stores on the street have a surface area of less than 200 square metres, the current flagship stores and those that will be created in the future, make Gran Vía one of the most attractive areas for investors and operators, says the report published by the real estate consultancy firm.

But it is not only the large fashion chains that are fighting for space on the Madrilenian thoroughfare. Its tourist appeal has not gone unnoticed by the many of the buildings’ owners or by hotel operators. The insurance company Generali, owner of number 10, will convert its property, which used to house the offices of Madrid’s Ministry of Education, into a hotel that the chain Vincci will operate. In addition to the project at Gran Vía 10, there has also been a change in the operator of the former Ada Palace, located at number two, which will become The Principal Madrid Hotel in a few months time.

At Gran Vía 31, the Mexican family Díaz Estrada, which also owns the property that houses the Apple Store a few blocks away from Gran Vía (in the emblematic Puerta del Sol), is looking to form a partnership with a hotel chain to convert its property into another prestigious establishment. “There is interest in three and four star hotels from both domestic operators, such as Barceló, Vincci and Praknik, as well as European ones, for example, Pestana”, says Rodríguez.

Conscious of this furore, the public administrations, such as the Community of Madrid, have taken advantage of the opportunity to make money from their properties and continue as tenants. In this way, the Community of Madrid has received more than €46.6 million for the buildings located at numbers 3, 18 and 20. Also, number 14, which they rent, has been sold by the Spanish company Dafor to a Mexican investor.

New projects

The good times that the Madrilenian street is currently enjoying will continue for the next few years, thanks to two landmark projects, located at the beginning and the end of Gran Vía: the Canalejas complex, led by Grupo Villar Mir, and the Edificio España, acquired by the Chinese businessman, Wang Jianlin. Both complexes will include a hotel, a retail area and luxury housing.

In addition, Wanda’s project is one of five hotel projects in the Plaza de España, which will all involve refurbishments in the near future: the Torre de Madrid, a 259-room four star hotel that will be managed by Barceló; another two properties owned by the hotel chain VP Hotels (one four- and five-star hotel, with 302 rooms) and the Hotel Chiqui, a four star establishment with 160 rooms. In total, 1000 new hotel beds.

Original story: Expansión (by Rocío Ruiz)

Translation: Carmel Drake