Podemos & the Tax Authorities Negotiate a Stricter Fiscal Framework for Socimis

11 September 2018 – Expansión

Podemos and the Government are studying measures to put a stop to the “rental bubble in Spain’s largest cities”, which Pablo Iglesias argues is being caused by the tax advantages being afforded to the Socimis.

The Tax Authorities and Podemos are negotiating a stricter fiscal framework for Socimis. That is according to sources at the negotiations, and to an announcement made by the leader of Podemos, Pablo Iglesias (pictured above, right), after his meeting with the President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez (pictured above, left), on Thursday.

Iglesias spoke of an “understanding” on this point and of advances in the negotiations. Although the fiscal framework of these real estate investment companies has always been under Podemos’s spotlight, it did not mention it in the document that it sent to the Tax Authorities in August detailing its requests, in exchange for its support of the Budgets. But, that was not a question of “limited demands”, according to sources at Podemos, who are now negotiating measures with the Executive to put a stop to the “rental bubble in Spain’s largest cities”. And, in Podemos’s opinion, the beneficial legislation afforded to Socimis explains this bubble, and it needs to be addressed urgently. Iglesias will spend tomorrow questioning Sánchez in the control session of the Government in Congress regarding the “measures that the Executive plans to adopt to put an end to the rental housing bubble”.

“We need to discourage the promotion of these types of companies, which foster the bubble model, undermine the public coffers and represent an affront to competition. We think that the special framework for Socimis, whose main feature consists of a Corporation Tax rate of 0%, needs to be reversed”, said Podemos recently in a document (…).

In this latest document, Podemos therefor, therefore, to put an end to this zero tax rate for Socimis, compared with the nominal tax rate of 25% (…). The negotiations with the Tax Authorities are based on the premise that Podemos wants to bring the tax rates for Socimis in line with those applicable to other companies. However, it does not rule out that the measures agreed will be aimed at having more control over their tax framework.

Zapatero’s Government created Socimis in 2009 in an attempt to revitalise the real estate market, inspired by the REITs (Real Estate Investment Trust) from the Anglo-Saxon world. They enjoy a very beneficial tax framework. Their Corporation Tax rate is 0%, provided they fulfil certain requirements: the minimum share capital must amount to at least €5 million (…); the funds must be invested in properties; a minimum of 80% of the profits obtained from rental must be distributed as dividends; and at least 80% of the value of the assets in urban buildings must be leased for at least three years.

Unlike the Sicavs, there is no requirement for Socimis to have a minimum number of shareholders, but their shares must be admitted for trading on a regulated market (…).

Following the economic recovery and the boom in the real estate market since 2013, the Socimis are enjoying a golden period (….).

Original story: Expansión (by Mercedes Serraller)

Translation: Carmel Drake

The ECB Demands Higher Provisions For Doubtful Debts From 2018

10 October 2017 – Cinco Días

The ECB has proposed a tightening of the provisions required by banks for any loans that they classify as doubtful from 1 January onwards. The ECB has subjected the draft legislation, currently posted on the body’s website, to public consultation. The standards that the supervisor is preparing complement those published in March of this year. In this way, banks will have to set aside more money from 2018 onwards to cover 100% of the loans that they reclassify, in other words, those that go from being standard to doubtful. The ECB will establish different terms depending on the type of loan: those that are secured by a real estate asset may be provisioned at 100% over seven years from the date of their reclassification. For loans without any type of guarantee, entities will have just two years to constitute the 100% provision.

The provisions will be applied on a linear basis from the date of recognition of the doubtful debt until the date the coverage ratio equals 100%, but national supervisors may require the recognition of provisions more quickly in certain cases. Moreover, loans that are partially covered by real estate assets must be provisions in two parts and with two doubtful rates.

In March, the ECB published a handbook for doubtful loans to be applied to portfolios of doubtful loans already in existence. It demanded that entities undertake procedures to reduce this load that, in its opinion, is restricting banks’ ability to grant new loans. The handbook is not binding, but banks will either have to “comply or explain”. In other words, they will have to comply with the handbook or explain why they are not complying with it. It also requires that they set specific objectives to reduce their existing portfolios.

Based on the response from entities and the evolution of doubtful balances, the supervisor will present new proposals,at the end of the first quarter of 2018, to attack the excess volume of toxic loans in the banking sector. According to the supervisor, the so-called “significant entities” (almost all of the banking system in Spain and 130 in total in Europe) held €865,000 million in doubtful assets during the first quarter (after that balance decreased by almost €100,000 million in one year). “Many entities have made significant progress and have submitted credible strategies that include reduction plans, but others still have a way to go to improve”, said the ECB.

In March, doubtful loans accounted for 47.05% of the total bank loan book in Greece, 17.75% in Ireland, 19.82% in Portugal and Italy. Based on this criteria, the figure for Spain amounted to 5.86%, but its level of foreclosed assets was very high.

Original story: Cinco Días (by Nuño Rodrigo Palacios)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Snapshot Of The MAB’s Real Estate Companies

4 September 2017 – Expansión

An attractive tax structure and investors’ appetite for real estate assets have led to a veritable flood of Socimi debuts on the stock market in recent years. With the exception of Merlin and Colonial – which form part of the Ibex – and Axiare, Hispania and Lar España – which are listed on the main stock market – the other Socimis trade on the Alternative Investment Market (MAB). In 2013, that market opened a new segment for this type of investment vehicle, which now comprises 40 companies.

To be incorporated, Socimis must have a minimum share capital of €5 million and invest in urban properties allocated for rent. These companies, which must be listed on regulated markets, are exempt from paying Corporation Tax in exchange for fulfilling certain obligations such as the distribution of dividends in a systematic way.

The first Socimi to debut on the MAB was Entrecampos Cuatro. That company, constituted in 2004 as a merger of several companies from the Segura Rodríguez family group, was responsible for firing the Socimi-starting gun on the MAB in November 2013.

The 40 Socimis now listed on the MAB have a combined market capitalisation of more than €7,000 million and comprise a very heterogeneous group both in terms of size, as well as by specialisation and category. The companies range from family groups to institutions (with one fund or professional investor holding a stake) to publicly owned entities (with numerous shareholders).

Of the Socimis currently listed on the MAB, the largest by a long way is General de Galerías Comerciales (GGC). That Socimi, which currently has a market capitalisation of €2,547 million, debuted on the stock market in July and, despite its size, is controlled almost in its entirety by a single shareholder, the Murcian businessman Tomás Olivo. GGC is exceeded in terms of market capitalisation only by Merlin and Colonial.

GGC is followed by the Montoro family’s real estate firm GMP, in which the fund Singapore GIC owns a 30% stake. That company currently holds 27 properties in its portfolio, including several iconic buildings, such as the historical Torre BBVA (renamed Castellana 81 due to its location) and a few metres away, Castellana 77 (also known as Torre Ederra). Other large listed Socimis include Zambal, the Socimi managed by IBA Capital, with investments in offices and commercial assets; and Bay, the Socimi owned by Hispania and Barceló. The latter, which focuses on the tourist sector, held 21 assets with a gross value of €790 million at the end of last year and since then has purchased another three assets: Hotel Selomar in Benidorm for almost €16 million; Hotel Fergus Tobago in Palmanova for €20 million; and the Armadores de Puerto Rico company for €6 million.

Shopping centres are also present on the MAB. In this way, for example, Intu owns two listed shopping centres: the Socimi Asturias Retail & Leisure, owner of the Intu Asturias shopping centre (previously Parque Principado), which has a total approximate surface area of 75,000 m2; and Zaragoza Properties, owner of Puerto Venecia Shopping Resort, in Zaragoza, with a surface area of more than 200,000 m2.

Another example is the Socimi Heref Habaneras, which owns the Habaneras shopping centre in Torrevieja (Alicante).

Residential market

One of the investment segments that has gained weight amongst the specialist Socimis in recent times is the residential market. Specifically, the private equity fund Blackstone has two listed Socimis. The largest, Fidere, debuted on the stock market in June 2015 with an asset value of €304.3 million and a portfolio of 2,688 social housing properties for let purchased during the crisis.

Moreover, the fund listed another Socimi on the stock market in March, Albirana Properties, which owns more than 5,000 assets spread all over Spain, most of which are rental homes (….).

A few weeks ago, the MAB introduced a modification to its rules to tighten up the access requirements for new Socimis. This change, which came into force in August, requires Socimis to have minority shareholders in their shareholdings when they debut on the stock market. Until then, companies had a year to fulfil the requirement. This led to an intensification in terms of the number of Socimi debuts. In July alone, seven companies joined the MAB: GGC, Bay Hotels & Leisure, Grupo Ortiz, Kingbook Inversiones, AM Locales Property, Colon and Numulae (…).

Original story: Expansión (by Rebeca Arroyo)

Translation: Carmel Drake