28 November 2017 – El Confidencial
Lone Star is on the verge of closing another chapter in its history, with the sale of the last major asset that forms part of Project Octopus, a portfolio comprising more than €4,000 million in real estate loans from the bank Eurohypo in Spain and Portugal, which the US fund acquired three years ago, in conjunction with JP Morgan.
The asset in question is the former headquarters of Fecsa-Endesa in Cataluña, a building with a surface area of 35,000 m2, whose three chimneys form part of Barcelona’s skyline and regarding which, it is holding exclusive negotiations with the joint forces of the Tramway group and the German vehicle Indigo Capital.
The conversations are now in the home stretch and may even be closed this afternoon, according to sources familiar with the process, although they also indicate that a second finalist is waiting in the wings, which could take over if these negotiations do not end up proving fruitful.
This operation marks another step forward in Lone Star’s strategy to unwind its positions in the Spanish real estate market, following the sale of the rest of Project Octopus and of the property developer Neinor Homes. That company debuted on the stock market in the spring and following several share sales, the US fund now only controls a 13% stake. Moreover, it goes against the grain of the current situation in the real estate market in Cataluña, which has all but come to a standstill due to the ‘independentista’ challenge.
This property, which has been empty for five years, has both environmental and change of use problems, which have certainly conditioned its sale. Constructed on the site of an old coal generation plan at the beginning of the 20th century, the subsoil of the plot contains impurities from the former coal and gas operations, which constitute the main risk to this operation and which have convinced other interested parties to withdraw from the process.
Impact of the sovereign challenge
In addition, the property has a key 4 urban planning rating, which restricts its use to public services with a technical component. In fact, its former owner, Grupo Sanjosé, which acquired the building from Endesa in a “sale & leaseback” operation, did not manage to resolve the change of use, which allowed Lone Star to execute the debt linked to the building in 2015.
And so on and so forth, because the sovereign crisis in Cataluña was about to bring down the process, launched in September and managed by JLL, in which firms such as Meridia, Colonial, Oaktree, Tristan, GreenOak, Värde and Stoneweg expressed an interest, according to sources.
In the end, only two candidates have submitted bids, for around €20 million, and the winner will likely have to double that investment figure in order to be able to carry out all of the renovation work that this asset requires to be in a position to generate value again.
Original story: El Confidencial (by R. Ugalde)
Translation: Carmel Drake