17 April 2018 – Merca2
Bilbao. Gran Vía, 1. One of the most iconic buildings in the Vizcayan capital has been located at that address since 1969. Comprising 21 storeys and measuring 86 m tall, it was the giant of the city until the arrival of Torre Iberdrola. Headquarters, at the time, of Banco de Vizcaya, the entity known nowadays as BBVA has just put the property up for sale. The price? Around €100 million.
This is a new milestone in the process to divest iconic buildings that the entity chaired by Francisco González has been carrying out for several years and which has been generating some juicy profits. This money for the coffers is a godsend for the balance sheet.
Another example, the most recent on the long list, saw the sale of Torre Puig in 2017 to the Catalan perfume group of the same name. That building, which ended up in BBVA’s hands after its acquisition of Catalunya Caixa, was sold for €60 million, at a gain of €30 million.
Also prior to this latest operation on Bilbao’s Gran Vía, which is expected to be closed before the summer, in 2015, BBVA sold the office block known as Torre Ederra in Madrid, located at number 77 Paseo de la Castellana, to Gmp (owned by the Montoro Alemán family and the sovereign fund of Singapore GIC). Spanning 21,000 m2 and spread over 18 floors, BBVA acquired that property in 2003 for €87.5 million from the French group Saint Gobain. The sales price paid by Gmp exceeded €90 million.
BBVA and its €300 million gain
There are several reasons behind BBVA’s decision to divest a series of buildings; some of them have significant value, not only financial but also in terms of their history and architectural beauty.
One of the reasons is to finance the cost of the creation of BBVA City (Ciudad BBVA). The new headquarters, popularly known as La Vela due to its most iconic tower, also comprises another seven horizontal buildings. It cost around €700 million to build and was constructed to reduce by one third the operating cost of having around 6,500 employees spread across a dozen properties, amongst other reasons.
Another building that was sold, for example, was the work of the architect Francisco Javier Saénz de Oiza. Constructed at number 81 Paseo de la Castellana, measuring 100 m tall, and spanning more than 49,000 m2 over 30 storeys, that property was sold in 2007, also to the real estate group Gmp.
That same year, BBVA reduced its portfolio further by placing other buildings in Madrid on the market, such as those located on Calle Goya 14, Calle Alcalá 16 and on Gran Vía de Hortaleza. In total, more than 108,000 m2 of space was sold, which saw these last four buildings generate gains of €300 million for the entity chaired by González (…).
Another operation that was different was BBVA’s sale, at the end of 2017, of its real estate division to the fund Cerberus Capital for around €4 billion. That deal was carried out at a discount of 61%: the gross book value of the 78,000 real estate assets that form part of the deal is €13 billion.
In this case, the operation involved divesting the bank’s exposure to property, in part “imposed” or “recommended” by the Single Supervisory Mechanism (SSM) of the European Central Bank (…).
Which assets are being spared? So far, the former headquarters of Argentaria, located on Paseo de Recoletos in Madrid, which currently houses the headquarters of Fundación BBVA. For the time being, no “for sale” sign has been put up there. But it could only be a matter of time.
Original story: Merca2 (by Valentín Bustos)
Translation: Carmel Drake