Sareb Opens Bidding to Other Servicers After Low Bids from Haya, Solvia, Altamira and Servihabitat

30 July 2019

Sareb has notified the four servicers that manage its €34 billion in real estate loans and assets that it will open up bidding on its management contracts to other potential bidders, after having received a round of offers that it considered insufficient. Haya Real Estate (Cerberus), Servihabitat (Lone Star), Solvia (Intrum) and Altamira (doValue) have been servicing the bad bank’s assets until now. Sareb mandated DC Advisory to manage the process as the bank looks to reduce the size of the commissions it has been paying to the four firms.

DC Advisory and Sareb have reportedly been in contact with smaller, specialised firms such as Hipoges, Finsolutia and Copernicus. The decision is a message to the four current servicers, letting them know that they may lose out on future contracts unless they improve their bids. Sareb is considering dividing some sections of its portfolio by geographical location, reducing the number of managers in each and streamlining its operations.

The process – known as the Project Esparta – sent shudders through the servicing sector and was a factor in the postponement of Haya Real Estate’s IPO last year.  Haya currently has the largest mandate, servicing 37% of the bad bank’s assets (2014). Altamira, in turn, manages 29%, while Servihabitat has 19% and Solvia 15%.

Original Story: El Confidencial – Jorge Zuloaga

Adaptation/Translation: Richard D. Turner

Sareb Offers the Contracts of Altamira, Servihabitat & Solvia to its Rivals

17 June 2019 – El Confidencial

Sareb is on a mission to change its course. According to market sources, the bad bank chaired by Jaime Echegoyen (pictured below) has decided to put its contracts with Altamira (owned by doBank), Servihabitat (Lone Star) and Solvia (Intrum) out to tender two years before their scheduled renewal.

Even though the contracts are not due to expire until the end of 2021, Sareb is putting them out to tender alongside that of Haya Real Estate, which is due to expire at the end of 2019. This represents a boost for Cerberus’s servicer, given that its competitors will now also have to focus on retaining their own contracts rather than just bidding for Haya’s.

In the event that Sareb awards the contracts of Altamira, Servihabitat and Solvia to other entities, it will have to compensate the servicers since their contracts clearly establish early termination clauses.

Altogether, Sareb is looking at putting out to tender the management of €34 billion in loans and properties that it still has left in its portfolio. The four will have to submit their bids in the next few months, specifying which assets they want to manage and what commissions they will charge.

The largest mandate is that of Haya, which manages assets proceeding from Bankia, which accounted for 37% of the bad bank’s original assets. It is followed by Altamira, which manages the assets proceeding from Catalunya Banc, BMN and Caja 3 (29% of the total); Servihabitat, which manages the assets from NCG Banco, Liberbank and Banco de Valencia (19%); and Solvia,  which manages assets from Bankia (foreclosed), Banco Gallego and Ceiss (15%). Clearly, there is a lot at stake for these servicers.

Original story: El Confidencial (by J. Zuloaga & R. Ugalde)

Translation/Summary: Carmel Drake

Sareb Launches Project Esparta to Shake Up its Servicer Arrangements

17 May 2019 – Cinco Días

Sareb has launched a new operation called Project Esparta, through which it is seeking to turn its existing strategy on its head.

The bad bank’s aims with this initiative are multiple: to create sub-portfolios into which to classify its assets; to renegotiate the contracts with its servicers to recover the services transferred to them; to delay sales and assume the stock of assets to generate added value; to create regional centres; and to equip itself with its own technological infrastructure. The overall objective is to professionalise sales and enhance the value of its assets.

As a result, Sareb is going to start renegotiating the contracts that it has with Haya, Altamira, Solvia and Servihabitat to recover some of the activities assigned to those servicers. Haya’s contract is due to expire on 31 December 2019 and according to the bad bank, it may be renewed in part or in whole, or the portfolio under management may be put up for tender. The contracts with Altamira, Solvia and Servihabitat are due to terminate in 2021.

Haya was hoping to make its stock market debut this year, but it will have to put those plans on hold until its future with Sareb is resolved.

Original story: Cinco Días (by Ricardo Sobrino)

Translation/Summary: Carmel Drake

Debt Recovery Firm KRUK Prepares to Make its Real Estate Debut

18 March 2019 – Bolsa Mania

The debt recovery firm KRUK is getting ready to enter the real estate market. The company, which has already acquired debt portfolios in other segments (e.g. consumer loans) from entities such as Bankia and Unicaja, now wants to start buying real estate-related debt portfolios from the banks, servicers and Sareb.

Until now, the group has specialised in the unsecured segment in Spain. Last year, it acquired a portfolio of doubtful consumer loans from Bankia and a year earlier, it did the same with another similar portfolio from Unicaja. A few months ago, it purchased another from Carrefour’s financial arm.

Further afield, the company currently has a presence in Poland, Romania, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Germany, Italy and Spain, with the last two markets representing its priorities for the time being.

Original story: Bolsa Mania (by Elena Lozano)

Translation/Summary: Carmel Drake

Sareb Hires DC Advisory to Overhaul its Servicer Contracts

15 March 2019 – El Confidencial

Sareb is determined to change track. The entity chaired by Jaime Echegoyen  (pictured below) has taken the decision to cut back the contracts that it currently has with its servicers (Haya, Altamira, Solvia and Servihabitat), in an overhaul of the work that is currently carried out by those platforms.

The timing is perfect, given that Haya’s contract is due to expire at the end of this year and the rest of the agreements mature in 2021. To this end, the bad bank has engaged the advisory firm DC Advisory (previously Montalbán) to help it redefine the servicers’ contracts. The business generates commissions of around €100 million per year.

Sareb is keen not to renew the existing contracts with lower commissions but rather to design a completely different model with new conditions and perimeters. The options range from assuming more of the work itself in-house to organising the out-sourcing of the portfolios by region.

The pressure is on for Sareb to divest its assets given that the entity itself has an expiry date and the current climate is ideal for undertaking operations.

Original story: El Confidencial (by R. Ugalde & J. Zuloaga)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Sareb Searches for an Ally to Develop Land Worth €2.5bn

3 January 2019 – Eje Prime

The bad bank is looking for a partner to increase its profitability through the development of its land. Sareb owns plots throughout Spain worth €5 billion, but almost half (€2.4 billion), lack building permits. For this reason, the company is combing the market to reach agreements with companies that specialise in converting plots into buildable sites.

The company is thus planning to turn the tide in its strategy for the management of its portfolio when the contracts that it has signed with several Spanish real estate servicers come to end, which they will do soon, according to El Economista.

At the end of the first half of 2018, Sareb’s buildable land had a value of €2.15 billion. The rest of the portfolio owned by the publicly owned company comprises rural plots, worth €450 million.

Sareb, with €36 billion on its balance sheet, is also working on the creation of a fund with a residential property developer in which it will own a large stake. By way of consideration (payment for that stake), the bad bank will grant land worth €800 million for the development of new homes. Aelca is currently the favourite in the running to be awarded that contract.

Original story: Eje Prime

Translation: Carmel Drake

CPPIB, doBank & Haya Compete for Altamira

14 November 2018 – Cinco Días

The sector of real estate servicers for assets proceeding from the banks is in flux. The latest process in the market to catch the attention of major funds and operators in the sector involves Altamira, the firm controlled by the manager Apollo, which owns 85% of the company, and Santander (15%). The first entity to make a major bid has been its competitor Haya Real Estate (owned by Cerberus), as published by Cinco Días on 8 November. That offer has now been joined by one from CPPIB, the Canadian Pensions Fund and one of the largest investors in the world.

Another player interested in Altamira Asset Management, according to financial sources, is the Italian firm doBank, formerly UniCredit Credit Management. That listed entity is controlled by Fortress. It is the largest doubtful loan manager in the transalpine country. Meanwhile, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) is a fund that manages the pensions of 20 million Canadian people, with assets worth €245.7 billion.

Altamira was created by Santander as a servicer for its toxic assets linked to property. In 2013, the bank sold 85% of the entity to the US fund for just under €700 million. Five years later, the manager from New York, which has not managed to star in any of the major bank portfolio purchases, has decided to exit the company. The amount of the operation, a sales process that has been entrusted to Goldman Sachs, is expected to exceed €600 million.

Altamira has become one of the large managers of financial and real estate assets in Spain, with a total volume of assets under management of €53.8 billion compared with €26 billion at the end of 2014, and with more than 82,000 properties, on behalf of around fifteen clients.

In recent months, there has been significant movement in the shareholders of these servicers, in large part linked to the sale of the bank portfolios. If Cerberus, through Haya, manages to acquire Altamira, it will be the third entity that the US fund controls, after Haya and Divarian (formerly Anida, linked to BBVA). The idea of the fund is to integrate it with Haya to relaunch that firm’s debut on the stock market, as reported by this newspaper. Blackstone, in turn, controls Aliseda (previously owned by Popular) and Anticipa. Lone Star acquired Servihabitat (formerly owned by La Caixa) this summer, and Sabadell has also put Solvia up for sale, another servicer that also interests Cerberus.

Original story: Cinco Días (by Alfonso Simón Ruiz & Pablo Martín Simón)

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

Cerberus Plans to Create a Real Estate Giant by Acquiring Altamira & Solvia

10 November 2018 – Expansión

Cerberus is increasing its commitment to the Spanish real estate market. The US fund is the favourite candidate to take over the reins at Altamira, the manager of property loans and foreclosed real estate assets currently owned by Apollo and Santander. Moreover, Cerberus is battling it out with the fund Lindorff (now Intrum) and other investors to purchase Solvia.

As Expansión revealed on 8 October, Apollo renewed its contract with the investment bank Goldman Sachs at the beginning of the summer and distributed the teaser (the sales document containing a general description) to potential interested parties to dispose of this asset for between €500 million and €600 million. Although it is not alone in the process, Cerberus is the candidate that has the best chance of acquiring that company.

But Cerberus is not going to settle for that asset only. Financial sources assure that the US fund is also bidding for Solvia, in a process in which it is also competing with Lindorff. The CEO of Sabadell, Jaume Guardiola, noted, during the presentation of the results on 26 October, the “good appetite” in the market for Solvia, “whose sale will close “soon”. He whereby confirmed the sale of Solvia Servicios Inmobiliarios (SSI) and Solvia Desarrollos Inmobiliarios (SDI). For the sale of SSI, in which it is being advised by Alantra, the bank hopes to receive up to €400 million.

Concentration of the market

If Cerberus ends up being the winner of both processes, it will become the clear leader of the servicer sector and a proponent of concentration between the servicers. These companies, created from the former real estate subsidiaries of the banks, have become some of the stars of the new real estate cycle.

Currently, almost all of the assets under management of the banks are in the hands of a few companies such as Altamira, Servihabitat, Haya Real Estate, Aliseda, Anticipa, Solvia and Divarian (previously Anida). These firms are mainly responsible for the management and recovery of debt and transformation of loan obligations into foreclosed real estate assets, as well as the sale and rental of assets.

If Cerberus ends up taking control of Altamira and Solvia, it will control almost 65% of the market for servicers, which will allow it to mark a differentiation in its strategy. Currently, the US fund controls Haya Real Estate, one of the large servicers with €40 billion in assets under management. Moreover, it took over the reins at Anida, which was in the hands of BBVA, and which manages €13 billion.

If it adds Altamira and Solvia to its portfolio, the volume of assets under management will soar to €138.9 billion, with a market share in the servicer segment of 65%. According to numbers managed by the consultancy firm Axis, the other two dominant funds are Blackstone, with Anticipa and Aliseda (also from Santander) and LoneStar, which controls Servihabitat after purchasing that company from La Caixa in the summer.

Other assets

In addition to the servicers, Cerberus is also the owner of the property developer Inmoglacier; the online estate agency between individuals Housell; and the debt recovery company Gescobro (…).

Original story: Expansión (by R.Arroyo and D.Badía)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Scope: Spain’s Most Exposed Banks are set to Boost their Toxic Assets Sales

25 October 2018 – Expansión

The large real estate sale operations formalised during the last year by Santander, BBVA, CaixaBank and Sabadell, amongst other entities, have allowed the Spanish banking sector to reduce its total volume of problematic assets (NPLs) by approximately 60% from the peak of €200 billion reached in December 2013, to €82 billion recorded at the end of the first half of this year.

This massive clean up of a large part of the banks’ balance sheets has caused analysts at the credit rating agency Scope to consider the current ratios of toxic assets as “manageable and more of a legacy left over from the crisis than a real concern”. That is according to the authors of a recent report which evaluates the improvement recorded in the quality of assets in the Spanish banking system as a result of property sale operations such as those of Santander with Blackstone (€30 billion), BBVA and Sabadell with Cerberus (€13 billion and €9.1 billion, respectively) and CaixaBank with Lone Star (€12.8 billion).

Despite the effort carried out by a large part of the sector, those responsible for analysing the Spanish banks at Scope assume that those banks with comparatively worse levels of property exposure will accelerate their cleanups over the coming quarters, either by carrying out large sales or by placing several smaller portfolios.

Sources at Scope expect to see more large operations involving the sale of problem assets over the coming months, given that the large funds are now operating full steam ahead in the real estate segment, and “they are trying to gain scale and capitalise on their recently purchased platforms”, explains the report. Such is the case, for example, of Lone Star, which acquired Servihabitat from CaixaBank, and whichever fund ends up buying Solvia from Sabadell.

Financial sources agree that the cycle of real estate operations in Spain still has several operations in the pipeline, and they point to entities such as Bankia and Cajamar, which have relatively higher levels of problem assets than the sector, as candidates for starring in those transactions. Specifically, Scope points to Cajamar in its report, given that it is the only entity with a ratio of non-performing assets of more than 10%, according to data from the ratings agency.

The analysts at Scope also assume that Bankia will carry out movements to sell a substantial part of its toxic exposure. One of the nationalised entity’s strategic objectives is to accelerate the clean up of its balance sheet over the coming quarters. Moreover, the analysts anticipate that the global NPL ratio will continue to reduce quickly given that the other banks “are already in the process of completing the sale of several foreclosed asset portfolios”, explains the firm in its report.

The funds seek NPLs in other latitudes

Although the activity of buying credit portfolios is still intense in Spain, the funds specialising in these types of assets are setting their sights on other countries in search of opportunities to find value.

Sources in the sector explain that a large number of the opportunistic and real estate funds that have been undertaking operations in Spain are trying to close new transactions in Italy, Portugal, Greece and Cyprus (…).

Original story: Expansión (by Nicolás M. Sarriés)

Translation: Carmel Drake