Recovery Has Investors Stocking Up On Spanish Malls

11 February 2015 – WSJ

The Spanish shopping experience is getting a multibillion-dollar makeover as the nation’s economy improves and foreign investment flows in.

After a year of tepid recovery from recession, consumer spending is picking up. Retail sales rose 1.9% in November from the same month in 2013, the fourth consecutive monthly increase, after six years of decline. Although nearly a quarter of the workforce remains unemployed, the economy is expected to expand by 1.7% this year, compared with 1.1% in the euro area as a whole, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

That, in turn, is helping to fuel investment in the retail property sector. In all, investment in retail real estate totalled €3.34 billion ($3.78 billion) in 2014, nearly triple the amount of the previous year and topping the record of €3.1 billion in 2006, according to property consultant JLL, formerly known as Jones Lang LaSalle. At least 67% of investments came from outside Spain. There was more investment in retail than in any other class of commercial real estate over the past year, according to JLL.

International investors are expected to pump more money into retail properties this year, including new construction, according to Adolfo Ramirez Escudero, president of property consultant CBRE Group Inc. in Spain.

Much of the money will go toward large-scale projects that mix shopping and entertainment, known as retail resorts, as well as outdoor outlet malls that resemble small cities where shoppers can find discounted designer brands.

Developers see opportunities for strong returns because prices of land and buildings are still depressed six years after the financial crisis. With the prices of many commodities at relatively lower levels and Spain’s unemployment so high, builders can also construct projects at a reduced cost. Meanwhile, the number of tourists to Spain is at a record, bringing with them money to spend.

The entrance of big global investors is a sign that the Spanish market is stabilizing, said Pedro de Churruca, general director of JLL in Spain.

“People are clearly coming back to shopping centers as a consequence of higher disposable income,” said Ismael Clemente of Merlin Properties Socimi SA, Spain’s largest real-estate investment trust, which in July purchased Marineda City shopping center in La Coruña from a local developer for €260 million. The three-year-old retail complex is the second-largest in the country.

The shopping center opened “in probably the worst possible moment in Spain,” said Mr. Clemente, referring to Spain’s economic doldrums. “We saw that there was a clear upward movement expected in rent, so we thought it was an interesting bet.”

The U.K.’s Intu Properties PLC purchased Spain’s largest shopping center, Puerto Venecia in Zaragoza, for €451 million in December. The British real-estate investment trust also announced a partnership with Spanish developer Eurofund to build four more retail resorts in Spanish cities as part of a plan to invest £1.2 billion ($1.8 billion) over 10 years.

Construction on the first of these projects, Intu Costa del Sol in the Malaga suburb of Torremolinos, —is scheduled to begin in the second half of 2015 and be completed by 2018. The 1.9-million-square-foot development will include amenities Intu is known for: a minitheme park, a surf lake, artificial ski slopes and a gourmet market, as well as shops and restaurants of high-end chains.

Intu owns 18 U.K. shopping centers, but Spain is the company’s first international market, which it entered in 2013 with the purchase of Parque Principado shopping center in Oviedo.

“We’re keen to keep growing, and if we focus on the prime, best shopping centers in the market, there are few opportunities in the U.K.,” said Martin Breeden, regional director of Intu. “Spain is a market that seemed open to international investment and where, frankly, there are not a lot of good shopping resorts in existence.”

Intu has purchase options on land for similar developments in Valencia, Vigo and Palma de Mallorca.

The Intu Costa del Sol site is about 3 miles from Malaga’s most-visited shopping center, Plaza Mayor, which opened in 2002. Sonae Sierra of Portugal, which owns and manages Plaza Mayor, has joined with U.K.-based McArthurGlen Group and U.S.-based Simon Property Group Inc. to expand the 572,400-square-foot shopping area to include a designer outlet mall. The €115 million development will add 324,000 square feet of leasable area and be the first large-scale outlet mall in Andalusia. Construction is scheduled to begin in the second half of this year, and the first phase is set to open in 2017.

Joan Jove, McArthurGlen’s regional development director, said Plaza Mayor is a “very strong, established retail scheme” and the planned adjacent outlet mall will be one-of-a-kind in the region. Mr. Jove said the project is mainly targeted at the 10 million tourists who visit Costa del Sol each year.

Intu’s Mr. Breeden said he wasn’t concerned about competition. “We’re very confident that there will be fantastic demand for our project.”

Sonae Sierra said it also plans to spend €55 million to update four of its other shopping centers around Spain within the next five years.

Elsewhere, TIAA-CREF, a U.S. money manager, has formed a joint venture with Neinver, a Spanish outlet-mall developer, to create TH Real Estate, which will own properties in Spain and other countries. Among their projects is the €80 million Viladecans The Style Outlets in Barcelona, which is scheduled to open in 2016.

“There is still plenty of money chasing product, and plenty of people with big debt who want to sell product,” said CBRE’s Mr. Ramirez. “I expect big volume this year.” He said large transactions could start to level off by next year as prices increase.

Original story: WSJ (by Shaheen Samavati)

Edited by: Carmel Drake

Best Start To The Year For Real Estate Market Since 2010

6 February 2015 – El Economista

Investment activity in the non-residential real estate sector in Spain has started the year with the same strength with which it closed 2014. In just one month, investment has risen to almost €1,100 million, approximately equal to the total amount recorded during the first quarter last year, according to data published by Savills, the international real estate consultancy.

This has been the best start to the year for the real estate market since 2010 in terms of transaction volumes. Nevertheless, in terms of the number of transactions, the level has not been particularly noteworthy compared with other periods – as of yesterday, only nine deals had been closed.

“In January and February, we tend to see transactions left over from before the holidays being closed, however, the pipeline of investment transactions in retail and offices currently exceeds €2,000 million. We expect investment volumes to be similar to or even exceed those recorded in 2014”, said Luis Espadas, Director of Capital Markets for Savills España.

Two transactions have accounted for almost 80% of the total investment in 2015. Firstly, the sale of Gran Vía 32, which was acquired by Pontegadea for around €400 million, according to market sources and secondly, the Puerto Venecia shopping centre, which was sold for €451 million – the deal was announced at the end of the year, but was actually closed in January.

“Both transactions not only support the rising trend in mega-deals (those exceeding €100 million), which accounted for 2.5% of all transactions in 2011 and for 9% last year, they also far outweigh the size of the largest operations recorded in 2014. Moreover, Savills highlights that in each case, the transactions involved a single building, rather than portfolios (of buildings) like in 2014 (when the Junta de Andalucía sold 70 buildings for €300 million and Carrefour sold a portfolio for €350 million).

Success in the office market

Amongst other transactions, interest for the office segment in Madrid stands out once again. It broke records in 2014 for the highest number of transactions ever recorded, with 71 transactions; and which has started 2015 on the right foot. Five buildings were sold in two weeks, almost all located within the M-30.

“The shortage of high quality properties for sale in the business district and other urban areas diverted the search for opportunities towards well-established business centres outside of the M-30, although 75% of investment last year was located inside the periphery” explained Espadas.

Nevertheless, there is an increasing drive towards refurbishment “to add value to office blocks, particularly those that are well located, which are being used either as offices or for conversion into hotels and shops”, added Espadas.

Meanwhile, yesterday, the consultancy firm Irea published its report about investment in the real estate sector in 2014, a year in which direct transactions in real estate assets tripled. Such investments accounted for €9,660 million worth of transactions, out of a total investment volume in the sector of €23,028 million, compared with €5,344 million in 2013.

Original story: El Economista (by A. Brualla)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Blackstone Drives Boom In The Purchase Of Logistics Assets

26 January 2015 – Expansión

Investors spent €620 million on logistics assets in 2014, compared with €100 million in 2013 / The total spend on warehouses amounted to more than €500 million for the first time since 2008.

From €100 million to €600 million in twelve months. That was the trajectory of the investment market in industrial and logistics assets in Spain in 2014.

Interest from large international funds and the launch of Socimis drove the volume of investment in the logistics sector through the roof in 2014, in a similar way to shopping centres. From minimal levels in recent years, the figures have increased sixfold.

According to data published by the property consultant JLL, €620 million was invested in logistical and industrial assets in Spain last year. In 2013, this figure was €100 million. “Investment in these types of assets has exceeded €500 million for the first time since 2008”, comments JLL.

The turnaround has been characterised not only by an increase in the number of transactions, but also in their size. Blackstone closed one transaction amounting to more than €60 million, and another for €132.8 million. “Blackstone closed 35% of all the transactions in the market, followed by the Socimis, which accounted for 36% of total volumes”, highlights the report. In just two years, the US investment fund has acquired a portfolio of logistics assets in Spain covering 600,000 square metres.

The listed property companies Axia Real Estate, Merlin Properties, and Lar España purchased logistics properties worth more than €200 million.

Another example of the boom in the sector is that the asset purchases have not been restricted to the major markets, says the consultancy in its report. “Madrid, Guadalajara and Barcelona continue to be the preferred locations for investors, but cities such as Sevilla, Valencia, Zaragoza and others are also in the mix”. The experts at JLL believe that, over the next few years, the funds with a more opportunistic nature will make way for those that have a more conservative profile.

In the case of recruitment, the numbers did increase with respect to the previous year, but not as significantly as the investment data. Nevertheless, demand for large warehouses, especially those that occupy more than 25,000 square metres, has skyrocketed, as companies such as Amazon and the textile groups realise their need to increase their storage capability in the face of increases in online sales.

Original story: Expansión (by R. Ruiz)

Translation: Carmel Drake