Cerberus Looking to Top Blackstone as the Largest US Investor in Spanish Real Estate

7 February 2019

Cerberus has a plan for Spain: the fund is looking for continued growth in the country. So, the US fund is putting together one of the most powerful teams in the Spanish real estate industry. Its goal in the medium term is to triple its investments in residential development, continue to grow its logistics business and start a new front in the rental business.

Cerberus has already invested more than 10 billion euros in Spain and now wants to exploit new lines of business such as rentals and logistics. The fund also has plans to leverage its development operations through the acquisition of more land and after buying Inmoglaciar. Blackstone, in total, has already invested more than 26 billion euros in Spain since 2014.

The American fund has generally avoided the limelight. In Spain, the fund has maintained a fairly low media profile, but that now seems about to change, as Gonzalo Gallego, who was responsible for the fund’s real estate investments in Spain, commented on Wednesday.

“We do not usually hold public events, and I think it’s a good time for a change. Cerberus has come to stay in Spain, we are 22 people dedicated to it, and it is already the second most important office in the world,” the representative said.

A look towards rentals

The change is also linked to the fund’s interest in expanding its investments in rentals. Mr Gallego stated that the sector is one of the pillars of the fund’s new strategy. Therefore, they have begun assembling a team dedicated exclusively to the sector.

Cerberus stated that the team consists of local experts who are seeking to “develop strategies that add value to their acquisitions.” The business will not be based solely on buying NPLs, though Mr Gallego stressed that the Spanish market has many such opportunities. “We invest in an asset by asset basis,” he said.

Another business the fund has experienced success with is REOs. Mr Gallego thinks that “they are wonderful.” “We know how to reposition and sell them to our investors; we work with almost 400 funds actively in the sale of these portfolios, it’s not a coincidence, it’s a strategy,” he explained.

Cerberus Real Estate believes that Spain still has enormous potential, although the current macro situation is forcing them to be more careful with their investments. “We are very optimistic regarding Spain, but some cold winds could freeze up some types of investments,” Mr Gallego said.

Opportunities and mergers

In the end, Cerberus believes that it has a ‘pipeline’ full of opportunities and that is why the fund is predicting an excellent year ahead, especially since there will be a “consolidation of the market” with “very important” corporate operations.

The North American fund came to Spain in the middle of the financial crisis (between 2010 and 2012) with the objective of taking over banks and real estate companies, as it did in other countries. The first did not go well after some attempts with the older banks (cajas). However, the fund’s luck with real estate has been better. Cerberus already controls more than €50 billion in assets, from Bankia, Sareb, Cajamar, Liberbank and BBVA.

Its next acquisition could be the developer Solvia Desarrollo Inmobiliario (SDIN) of Banco Sabadell, which is selling land worth more than 1 billion euros. The bid for these assets has already begun, and financial sources claim that the fund has shown interest in them.

Original Story: Vox Populi

Translation: Richard Turner

Sabadell & CaixaBank in the Top 5 European Ranking of Toxic Asset Sales in 2018

29 January 2019 – Expansión

CaixaBank starred in the fourth largest toxic asset sale operation in Europe in 2018 whilst Sabadell starred in the seventh largest. And they were not the only transactions that the two entities undertook (…). In fact, both banks feature in the list of the Top 5 entities in Europe by volume of toxic asset portfolio sales last year, according to data collected by the analysis firm specialising in debt Debtwire.

All of that, despite the fact that Spain’s two largest banks, Santander and BBVA, had a much quieter 2018 than 2017, when the former undertook the largest sale of toxic assets in the country’s history, with the transfer of assets with a nominal value of €30 billion inherited from Popular to Blackstone. Meanwhile, BBVA placed part of its real estate business in the hands of Cerberus that same year.

Last year, Sabadell and CaixaBank took over the baton. The bank chaired by Josep Oliu is the Spanish entity that recorded the largest toxic asset sales in 2018, divesting assets with a nominal value of €12.6 billion. That figure placed it fourth in the ranking, behind only the Italian entities Monte Dei PAschi, Banca Popolare di Vicenza and Banco BPM.

Meanwhile, CaixaBank (…) was the fifth most active bank in the ranking, with toxic asset sales of €12.1 billion, just behind Sabadell.

Together with contributions from the other banks, with Bankia and Santander in high-ranking places, the Spanish sector divested toxic assets worth €43.2 billion in 2018, compared with €51.7 billion in 2017, which represented a decrease of 16%.

Nevertheless, neither CaixaBank nor Sabadell managed to keep Spain at the top of the podium of countries that divested the most toxic assets last year. Italy is the new leader with NPL sales of €103.6 billion (…).

In Spain, the loans and foreclosed assets divested by the banks are now in the hands of Cerberus and Lone Star, primarily, the two funds that purchased the most in Spain last year, with €15.8 billion and €13 billion, respectively.

Well behind them in the ranking is Axactor, which is typically more interested in smaller operations. And Blackstone, which was out of the ranking last year, after starring as the absolute leader in 2017, thanks to the operation that it closed with Santander, according to the report from Debtwire, which takes into account all transactions exceeding €100 million (…).

Original story: Expansión (by Inés Abril)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Neinor Wants Sabadell’s Land & so is Competing with the Large Funds to Buy SDIN Desarrollo Inmobiliario

17 December 2018 – Voz Pópuli

The bidding for the land owned by Sabadell’s property developer, SDIN Desarrollo Inmobiliario, is going to start in a matter of days and none of the funds wants to miss the party. Everyone has their own interest, but there are some who may bid more strongly than others due to their close relationship with the bank. But this time, they will not be alone.

Neinor Homes wants to take a seat at the negotiating table, according to sources familiar with the operation speaking to Voz Pópuli. The property developer led by Juan Velayos is interested in obtaining the land that Sabadell owns in Madrid and Barcelona. The market classifies the plots as very good. Neinor has not made any comments in this regard.

Oaktree is also going to join the bidding – it has been a familiar face in Sabadell’s recent operations. The fund is very interested in acquiring SDIN Desarrollo Inmobiliario’s land. The plots have been valued at €1.3 billion, according to reports by El Confidencial, which have been confirmed by this newspaper.

Sources familiar with the operation have explained that the fund has a lot of interest after the joint venture that it formed with the group this summer to buy land from Iberdrola.

Cerberus

The third candidate in discord is another old hand: Cerberus. The giant also wants its share of the pie. The acquisition of the property developer Inmoglacier could be related. If it is successful with this operation, the fund could create a new “giant”, which would fulfil all of the requirements to debut on the stock market.

The bidding is expected to begin before the end of the year. It could even start this week but could also be delayed due to technical reasons (…). The intention is for this operation to be closed by the end of the first quarter of 2019 or the beginning of the second.

This operation will begin after Sabadell sold its servicer for €300 million to Intrum on Friday. Solvia has more than €30 billion in assets under management and has sold more than 94,000 properties in recent years.

Original story: Voz Pópuli (by David Cabrera)

Translation: Carmel Drake

The Fund Centricus Enters the Bid to Buy Solvia

28 November 2018 – Expansión

A candidate with an exotic air about it has entered the auction for Solvia, the real estate subsidiary controlled in its entirety by Sabadell. The fund Centricus, which is headquartered in London but which has several Chinese and Japanese shareholders, has submitted a binding offer to acquire Sabadell’s asset management platform, according to sources familiar with the process.

Official sources at the bank preferred not to comment in this regard. Centricus wants to enter the Spanish market to compete with the large investment funds specialising in asset management, such as two of the other players interested in Solvia: Cerberus and Intrum, formerly Lindorff.

Centricus manages assets worth more than USD 20 billion and has worked together with the Japanese giant SoftBank to raise funds amounting to USD 100 billion at the international level.

Asian alliances

The British fund also recently joined forces with the Chinese companies China Merchants Group and SPF Group to launch a USD 15 billion fund to invest in technology companies.

Centricus, Cerberus and Intrum have all submitted binding offers for Solvia amounting to more than €300 million. According to sources close to the operation, one of the funds has even offered an amount close to the €400 million that Sabadell aspires to receive. The bank has awarded the mandate to divest Solvia to Alantra.

Sabadell activated the sale of its real estate platform after cleaning up €11.5 billion in toxic assets from its balance sheet. At that time, it preferred to not sell Solvia, like the majority of its competitors did, to try to maximise its revenues. The bank considers that the real estate platform has significant latent profits. Cerberus could be the favourite in the contest since it is now holding advanced conversations with the entity.

Natural buyer

The US fund is the “natural” buyer for Solvia, say financial sources. In fact, during the summer, Cerberus acquired two large portfolios of foreclosed properties from Sabadell (Challenger and Coliseum), with a combined gross value of €9.1 billion.

Sabadell wants to sign the sale of the real estate platform before the end of this year to have its balance sheet free of property remnants. Solvia manages 148,000 assets, with a value of more than €30 billion. In parallel, the bank has also placed up for sale its property developer subsidiary, Solvia Desarrollos Inmobiliarios. The completion of that operation has been delayed until the beginning of 2019.

Original story: Expansión (by R. Sampedro)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Cerberus, Intrum & DoBank Bid to Acquire Altamira

15 November 2018 – El Confidencial

There is still an appetite for the servicers’ business. The sale of the 85% stake that Apollo owns in Altamira is making its first cut of candidates, with some of the most high profile investors in the segment amongst the finalists. According to financial sources, the fund Cerberus (Haya Real Estate), the Swedish firm Intrum (Nordic Capital) and the Italian firm DoBank (Fortress) are the candidates that have progressed in the process, which is being coordinated by Goldman Sachs, and which was relaunched after the summer following months on the table.

Other players in the sector interested in Spain are also in the process, both at the domestic and European level. One of those new candidates is the US firm Davidson Kempner, which has a portfolio of USD 30 billion under management and with interests in the transformation of toxic assets in the United Kingdom and Ireland, according to sources involved in the operation.

Apollo is willing to take advantage of the hunger for this type of vehicle to make gains, although it does so after four years at the helm of the servicer and having not been awarded any of the large real estate portfolios that the banks have sold (Santander to Blackstone, BBVA to Cerberus, CaixaBank to Lone Star and the Sabadell-Solvia process, in whose final stretch it is not participating). In fact, this divestment comes after Apollo’s manager for the last few years – Andrés Rubio – left the fund.

The price of the management platform could reach €1.5 billion (debt included), a business for which Apollo paid €664 million in January 2014 in exchange for an 85% stake (the remaining 15% is still owned by Banco Santander). The agreement comprised the management of toxic assets (recovery of loans and sale of properties) until 2028, although the transformation of that perimeter has led to a change in the management conditions (commissions) and to the repayment of a €200 million dividend.

Altamira has assets under management amounting to more than €50 billion, compared with €26 billion in 2014, and a portfolio comprising more than 82,000 properties at the end of 2017, making it the largest servicer in operation in Spain. In addition to its contract with Santander, it also manages assets for Sareb (which account for 30% of its portfolio) and for third parties – international investors, financial institutions, family offices and institutional clients – as a result of the international expansion plan launched in 2017.

Original story: El Confidencial (by Carlos Hernanz)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Plans are Afoot to Refloat Marbella’s Former Incosol as a Hotel

26 November 2018 – Diario Sur

It is one of Marbella’s historical tourism buildings, it has been closed since 2013, and for years the most famous of the famous passed through its doors. It is the Incosol. Now, five years after it definitively closed its doors when its last owners filed for creditor bankruptcy, something is starting to move in the great establishment, located to the East of the town and surrounded by gardens and unbeatable views.

According to information obtained by this newspaper, Hotel Value Added Primera, linked to the subsidiary that the Sabadell Group used to acquire the building in 2017, is studying the feasibility of refloating the property as a hotel. For that, it has made contact with the local Administration to consider, in the first instance, the possibilities that the plans would have from an urban planning point of view. In theory, the plans involve a hotel project without the healthcare features that the iconic Incosol used to offer.

Although no specific plans have been presented to the Town Hall yet, the Urban Planning department has started to evaluate the investors’ proposals. From the outset, the exclusive hotel use would require a modification of the elements of the General Urban Plan (PGOU) in force, that of 1986. For the time being, the case is being studied technically.

The sources consulted by this newspaper underline that the urban development plan reflects that this land “would not form part of the municipality’s healthcare model”, which would open the door to the proposed change. In any case, and with the aim of understanding the feasibility of the idea presented to the Municipal Administration, the investors are not taking any risks and have resorted to those who best know the urban development plan in force, namely, the team that drafted the PGOU of 1986.

Since the hotel’s closure in 2012, and after many incarnations in the courts, last year, it was the Sabadell Group, through its real estate subsidiary, who took ownership of the property and the brand. Just a few weeks ago, the doors of the old hotel were opened again to clear the facilities of all of the furniture and furnishings that had been left intact since its closure and which have now been donated to Cáritas (…).

The legendary spa of the jet set of the 1970s and 1980s in Marbella (through whose doors passed Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, Sean Connery, Rainiero of Mónaco and Camilo José Cela, amongst others) closed in 2013, on one of the saddest days in its history, since it opened its doors in 1973. The failure led to a creditors bankruptcy (…). And after much to-ing and fro-ing, in the end, one of its creditors, Sabadell, acquired the establishment a year ago.

If the plans of the investor group interested in recovering the property – which are still in a very early phase – come to fruition, Marbella could include the mythical Incosol in its list of new luxury establishments after the upcoming arrival of the prestigious Four Seasons, the arrival of W Marbella and the re-opening of the former Don Miguel establishment, thus confirming the growing interest in investing in the city, especially to create new tourist infrastructure.

Original story: Diario Sur (by Mónica Pérez)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Project Ánfora: BBVA Studies €1bn+ Offers from Cerberus, CPPIB & Lone Star

19 November 2018 – Voz Pópuli

BBVA has chosen the three finalists who are going to compete for the largest portfolio of assets currently on the market, Project Ánfora. The entity is holding negotiations with three major North American funds, Cerberus, CPPIB and Lone Star, according to financial sources consulted by Voz Pópuli.

Up for grabs: a portfolio a real estate loans worth €2.5 billion. Some of the offers exceed €1 billion, according to the same sources.

BBVA expects to conclude the process before the end of the year to whereby end 2018 in the best way possible. It will be the last set of annual accounts with Francisco González as President, and at the current pace, they could be closed with one of the largest profits in the group’s history. The entity earned €4.3 billion to September; its record annual profit to date is €6.1 billion, which is registered in 2007.

In addition to Project Ánfora, BBVA has just closed Project Marina: the sale of its real estate arm Anida and of assets worth €13 billion to Cerberus. Nevertheless, the transfer of a large part of those assets, which proceeded from Unnim, is pending authorisation by the Deposit Guarantee Fund (FGD).

Property to zero

Following those two operations, and others in the past – such as the sale of its stake in Testa – the property left on BBVA’s balance sheet is going to almost immaterial. With that, the CEO, Carlos Torres, hopes that the real estate unit will stop weighing down on the group’s income statement from 2019 onwards.

The favourite of the candidates to purchase the €2.5 billion portfolio is Cerberus. Not only because of the appetite that the US fund has been showing regarding the purchase of real estate assets in Spain, but also because of the interest that it will have in Divarian, the new Anida, continuing to manage the assets.

CPPIB (Canada Pension Plan Investment Board) is the other entity that is backing the Spanish market most heavily, through its stake in Altamira and the acquisition of portfolios from Sabadell and BBVA.

Meanwhile, Lone Star has started investing more money in Spain following the changes in its management team and because it wants to gain volume to make its acquisition of CaixaBank’s property profitable.

Original story: Voz Pópuli (by Jorge Zuloaga)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Blackstone Negotiates Sale of the Ilunion Portfolio with Zurich for c. €100M

13 November 2018 – Cinco Días

The real estate giant Blackstone is pushing ahead with several divestments from its recently acquired Socimi Hispania. The US fund is negotiating with the insurance company Zurich regarding the sale of a portfolio of office buildings, which are occupied by Ilunion as a tenant, according to confirmation from sources in the real estate sector. The price of the operation will exceed €100 million.

Blackstone acquired Hispania through a takeover launched in the spring, which valued the Socimi at almost €2 billion. The US fund completed the operation because it was primarily interested in the company’s hotel assets, given that it owned 13,100 rooms across 46 hotels, the largest owner in the country in that segment. The US giant wants to create a hotel platform in Spain and, in fact, has already ceded the management of those establishments to its company HI Partners, the manager of other hotels purchased from Sabadell.

In total, Hispania’s portfolio has a gross asset value (GAV) of €2.811 billion. The most residual part, Hispania’s housing, is already being managed by another company owned by the fund, Fidere. And for the office component, the strategy is to divest the assets.

When Blackstone acquired Hispania, it broke off an agreement that the Socimi had with the British fund Tristan Capital Partners to divest the entire office portfolio for more than €500 million. That was the second time that the sale had been thwarted, previously Swiss Life was the buyer, in that case at the end of the summer in 2017, when the uncertainty surrounding the Catalan sovereignty process meant that the conditions of the insurance company were more demanding.

By contrast, the strategy now is to put this portfolio up for sale in a piecemeal fashion. The most advanced process relates to four properties in Madrid, which are all occupied by Ilunion, the holding company of the ONCE, as the tenant.

The largest property is the Torre 30 Building, appraised at €50 million at the end of 2017. Located next to the M-30 by the junction with the A-2, it was constructed in 1968, renovated in 2006 and has a surface area of 11,417 m2.

The sale also includes the Mizar Building, a property next to Torre 30, where in addition to Ilunion, Eysa and Paramount also have their headquarters, according to Hispania’s public documents, and which is worth €27.4 million. They are joined by the Pechuán building in Plaza Sagrado Corazón de Jesús next to Príncipe de Vergara, worth €19 million. Finally, the portfolio contains a property on Calle Comandante Azcárraga in the Pio XII area, worth €10.1 million.

Those four buildings had a combined appraisal value of €106.5 million as at 31 December 2017. Their current value is unknown but it is expected to be higher given that in May, Hispania revalued its assets upwards by 5.7% on average.

The rest of the office portfolio is not officially up for sale, but given that they are not strategic assets for Blackstone, the expectation is that it will receive offers for them, as a group or in different sub-portfolios.

Original story: Cinco Días (by Alfonso Simón Ruiz)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Santander Awards the Management of Popular’s €5bn Portfolio to Blackstone

12 November 2018 – Expansión

Santander and Blackstone have reached an agreement whereby the US fund, through the real estate servicer Aliseda, has taken on the management of a portfolio of assets from Popular amounting to €5 billion, which Santander is retaining on its balance sheet. The portfolio includes real estate assets and loans linked to the retail segment and Santander is retaining ownership of 100% of the assets. They were left out of the transfer of Popular’s assets to Quasar, the joint venture that the bank and Blackstone launched last year.

Santander transferred the bulk of Popular’s damaged portfolio to Quasar (€30 billion gross, linked primarily to property developers), along with 100% of the share capital of Aliseda. Blackstone controls the management of Quasar and 51% of the shares and Santander the remaining 49%. The bank has this stake valued at €1.7 billion on its balance sheet.

“The assets under management have been classified into two different groups, to reflect their owner: the Santander Group portfolio, owned by Popular (and now absorbed by Santander) and the Popular portfolio, owned by Project Quasar 2017”, according to the annual accounts of Aliseda. Specific teams have been configured within the servicer to manage Santander’s assets.

As at June, the latest available disaggregated figures, the entity chaired by Ana Botín still had a portfolio of foreclosed assets amounting to €10.5 billion gross. They have been cleaned with €5.2 billion in provisions (48.9%), which brings their net value to €5.4 billion. Nevertheless, in September, it sold a portfolio of properties worth €1.5 billion to Cerberus. In addition, Santander has loans to property developers amounting to €5.7 billion. Of the total, €1.8 billion are doubtful balances, with a default rate of 32%.

Santander currently has agreements with three servicers (Altamira, Aliseda and Casaktua). It paid those three companies almost €460 million in management commissions last year.

Meanwhile, Aliseda, which is now controlled by Blackstone and Santander, has rescinded the syndicated loan that it signed in 2015. At the time, the funds Värde Partners and Kennedy Wilson owned 51% of the real estate manager’s share capital and Popular owned the remaining 49%.

Following the acquisition of Popular by Santander, the entity chaired by Ana Botón repurchased the 51% stake held by Värde Partners and Kennedy Wilson, as a step prior to the transfer of 100% of Aliseda to Quasar.

“According to the syndicated financing contract subscribed on 27 November 2015, the cancellation of the loan has been formalised, following the repayment of the principal and outstanding interest, and of the cancellation penalty for the overall amount of €266.03 million”, said Aliseda’s report.

The bank with the greatest share of the loan was Popular itself (33.33%), with an outstanding balance of €87.86 million at the end of 2017. Bankia, Santander, Sabadell and Bankinter, with shares of 10%, had outstanding balances of around €25 million each. ING (€24.3 million), Crédit Agricole (€23.3 million) and BBVA (€17.5 million) completed the group of banks in the syndicate.

The interest rate on the loan, conditioned on the debt ratio and the gross result of the company, was six-month Euribor plus a spread of between 2.75% and 3.50%.

Following the change of ownership of Aliseda and its senior management team, the servicer paid compensation for redundancies of €1.4 million last year. It also paid €5.64 million for a remuneration plan that granted certain executives the right to receive remuneration in the event of a change of control of the company.

Original story: Expansión (by M. Martínez)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Haya Reactivates its IPO After Protecting its Mega-Contract with Sareb

8 November 2018 – Cinco Días

One of the IPOs scheduled for this year is going to be executed next year, most likely in the window that will launch in May. The bane that was weighing down on Haya Real Estate, the end of its mega-contract with Sareb, has almost been lifted. The contract was signed in January 2015 and expires in December 2019, but financial sources are now certain that it is going to be renewed. Nevertheless, Sareb is likely to pay lower commissions to the real estate asset manager (servicer, in the jargon). The appraisal value of the firm ahead of its stock market debut amounts to around €1.2 billion.

Last May, Sareb put assets worth around €23.5 billion up for sale, comprising property developer loans and real estate assets. They accounted for 60.6% of the €38.8 billion that Haya had at the end of June.

That caused investors to panic about their bonds, whose yield soared to 8.5% (refer to the graph) and put in doubt Haya’s stock market debut this year, as Cinco Días published on 4 June. Now, the yield on that debt amounts to less than 7%. Haya has engaged Rothschild as its chief IPO advisor and Citi and JP Morgan as the coordinators.

But last summer, the so-called bad bank decided to suspend that operation and opt, in all cases, for smaller sales. Thus, the firm controlled by Cerberus was going to manage those assets until the end of the year. The sources consulted indicate that, after the divestment was ruled out, the negotiations between Sareb and Haya progressed at a good pace and the likelihood of the contract being extended now exceeds 90%. Barring a last-minute change of heart, the two entities will announce the extension of the agreement before 30 June 2019. Nevertheless, a spokesperson for Sareb clarified that a decision has not yet been taken. A spokesperson for Haya declined to comment on the information.

The final discussion points relate to the commission that Sareb is going to have to pay Haya. By contrast, the servicer is not going to pay any upfront payments, like it did in at the start of the current contract, for €235 million.

The other question that must be resolved in parallel to the stock market debut is that of a possible merger. Sabadell has put its asset manager, Solvia, up for sale for around €400 million, and Cerberus (Haya’s main shareholder) is the main interested party. In fact, Cerberus has already acquired 80% of Sabadell’s real estate assets with a book value of €9.1 billion. Santander and Apollo are also in the process of selling Altamira, and Haya is exploring possible business opportunities outside of Spain.

In addition to Sareb’s assets, Haya Real Estate is also likely to manage the majority of the assets that BBVA has sold to Cerberus for around €4 billion (with a book value of around €13 billion). It has also already been agreed that Haya Real Estate will manage the future flows of toxic property from BBBA. Haya will also add the so-called Ágora portfolio to its assets, comprising €650 million purchased by Cerberus from CaixaBank.

Until the amount of assets managed is increased, it already has a Bankia portfolio amounting to €5.5 billion under management, thanks to a contract signed in May, as well as portfolios from Cajamar (€5.9 billion), Liberbank (€2.9 billion) and other firms (€1 billion). Between January and June, Haya recorded revenues of €130.2 million, of which €64.9 million was converted into EBITDA. On Thursday 15 November, the firm will publish its accounts to the end of September.

Original story: Cinco Días 

Translation: Carmel Drake