Heron City Sale Fails to Spark Interest amongst Investors

12 December 2017 – El Confidencial

A concept too unique for a market that is used to something a lot more familiar. That is the moral that can be drawn from the decision by Heron International, the property developer behind the famous Heron City centres, to put into quarantine the sales process of the three leisure centres that it owns in Spain.

The offers received by the British company fall well below its expectations, which has caused it to reconsider its whole strategy and take the decision, last week, to suspend the current sales process, according to sources familiar with proceedings.

As El Confidencial revealed in September, the British company engaged CBRE to find a buyer for its whole portfolio, which comprises Heron City Las Rozas (Madrid), Heron City Paterna (Valencia) and Heron Diversia Alcobendas (Madrid), and which has a valuation of between €230 million and €250 million.

Nevertheless, the appetite in the market has been lower than anticipated because the usual suspects who typically participate in these types of operations (large international funds and Socimis) actually specialise in shopping centres, whose casuistry differs from those of leisure centres, and where lots of investment opportunities are still emerging.

In 2017 alone, with less than a month to go before the end of the year, 17 transactions involving shopping centres and retail parks have been closed across Spain, according to data from the trade association AECC, led by giants such as Xanadú. Moreover, during the next two years, around twenty new centres are expected to open and six centres are due to be expanded, which will see an additional gross leasable area come onto the market of more than 2 million m2.

The result has been that Heron International has decided to suspend the sales process and redefine its strategy. The three Heron City complexes, which span a combined gross leasable area of 84,000 m2, have 6,100 parking spaces, receive more than 12 million visitors per year, and represent a brand that arrived in Spain almost three decades ago with a very specific leisure concept, based on cinemas and a restaurant offer that tries to distance itself from classic fast food.

Since its arrival in Spain, Heron International has only starred in one operation, involving the sale of one of its leisure centred, namely Heron City in Barcelona, which it sold to Babcock & Brown and GPT at the end of 2006 for €138 million. Almost a decade later, as El Confidencial revealed, that complex was acquired by ASG, the Spanish subsidiary of Activum, a deal that represented that firm’s first operation in the Catalan capital.

The leisure centre in Barcelona, as well as those in Las Rozas and Paterna were all built by the British company. In the case of Diversia, it purchased that centre in 2003 in conjunction with Realia (50%) and a decade ago it took over all of the share capital when it also acquired the stake owned by FCC’s subsidiary.

Original story: El Confidencial (by R. Ugalde)

Translation: Carmel Drake