Spain’s Social Security Puts 3 Assets in Barcelona up for Auction for €20.5M

15 October 2018 – Eje Prime

Spain’s Social Security department is doing its part to reactivate the Catalan real estate market. The public body has put three assets up for auction in Barcelona with a total asking price of €20.5 million. The auction will take place on 21 November at the provincial offices of the General Treasury of Social Security in the Catalan capital.

The most high-profile property is the former Social Court, located at number 41 Ronda de Sant Pere in Barcelona. With a surface area of 5,926 m2, the asset is going to be auctioned for €16.7 million, according to reports from Expansión.

The second building up for sale is a single-family home located on Passatge de Mercader in Barcelona, very close to Rambla Catalunya. In total, the useful surface area of that residential asset is 240 m2, and the asking price amounts to around €3.8 million.

The third property is a commercial premise, located on Avenida Carlos III in Barcelona, next to Planeta’s headquarters. That asset has a surface area of 500 m2, distributed over the ground floor and four semi-basement floors. That property will go up for auction for more than €1 million.

In addition, the Ministry of Labour has also put a ground floor commercial property up for sale. That asset has a surface area of 830 m2 and is located in the centre of the city of Girona. In that case, the auction is going to be held on 5 November at the Gerona headquarters of the Social Security offices. The asking price for that asset is €922,800

Original story: Eje Prime

Translation: Carmel Drake

Marina d’Or’s Real Estate Company Capitalises Debt Amounting to €11.1M

7 October 2018 – Valencia Plaza

On Friday, the Official Gazette of the Mercantile Registry reflected a capital increase amounting to €11.1 million undertaken by the company Comercializadora Mediterránea de Viviendas SL. In other words, Comervi, the real estate company behind Marina d’Or, which said no more by way of explanation to this newspaper than: the manoeuvre came as a response to a “conversion of debt into capital” – without offering any more details -.

This possibility had been contemplated in the agreement signed by the company and its creditors to emerge from the bankruptcy proceedings, as explained by this newspaper. Specifically, the agreement gave the creditors a choice between collecting the debt with a discount of 65% over a period of 10 years and the option of capitalising their loans and going on to become shareholders of the company.

Depending on who has signed this capital increase for the real estate firm behind Marina d’Or – controlled in its entirety by Jesús Ger to date – a new shareholder may have joined the fold. Nevertheless, the possibility that the capitalisation has been subscribed by a company owned by the Catalan businessman himself has not been ruled out.

In fact, as stated in Comervi’s most recent financial statements – corresponding to 2017 – the company has debt amounting to €55.8 million with “related companies”, as detailed in note 13 of the annual accounts.

When asked about this, sources at Sareb – which according to Marina d’Or is Comervi’s main private creditor – explained to Valencia Plaza on Friday that the entity agreed to apply the aforementioned discount of 65% to the amount owed by the company and that, as a result, the bad bank is not the entity that has capitalised the €11.1 million.

In the same vein, Banco Sabadell explained to this newspaper that its agreement with Comervi was written off following the handover to the financial institution of 40 apartments and one warehouse, as this newspaper revealed.

It has also been ruled out that the capitalisation has been carried out by the Tax Authorities or Social Security – the other two major creditors of Comervi – given that the State does not make a habit of becoming a shareholder in private companies that have filed for creditor bankruptcy.

Original story: Valencia Plaza (by Dani Valero)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Employment In The Real Estate Sector Rose By 6.4% In October

3 November 2017 – Eje Prime

The real estate sector is continuing its role as a driver of the growth of employment in Spain. According to data from the Social Security office, in October, real estate activity registered a total of 130,850 affiliated workers, 63 more than in September. That figure represents a YoY increase of 6.4%, with 7,921 more professionals now active in the sector.

Including October, real estate activity has now recorded four consecutive months above the threshold of 130,000 jobs. This hopeful figure for growth contrasts with the just over 118,000 workers that were registered in the segment less than two years ago, in January 2016. Last year, during one month, March, the figure actually fell below that threshold, to an annual minimum of 117,986.

Nevertheless, the sector has been recovering its strength, month after month, and the real estate business made its debut in 2017 with 124,053 affiliated workers registered for Social Security purposes. Since January, the MoM growth rate has stood at around 1%, with around 1,000 new jobs being created each month, until the summer, when the rate of increase stagnated.

The strong performance in terms of employment in the real estate sector goes hand in hand with the recovery of the job market in general right across the country. In October, the Social Security office registered 17 million affiliated workers, which represents an improvement of 3.9% on the total employment figures recorded in the same month in 2016. The growth rate of employment in the real estate sector (6.4%) clearly shows that it is moving at a faster pace than the economy in general.

If we add employment in real estate activity with employment in the construction sector (the construction of buildings, specialist construction work and civil engineering), then the sector recorded an average of 1.27 million affiliated workers in October, up by 6.7% compared to the same month last year.

Unemployment rose by 56,884 people in October

The number of registered unemployed people at the Public Employment Services’ offices rose by 56,884 in October compared to the previous month. Nevertheless, the increase was well below the average rise in the unemployment figure in October over the last eight years, which amounts to 90,000 people.

In YoY terms, unemployment in Spain fell by 7.9% in the tenth month of the year, bringing the total number of unemployed people to 3.46 million. By economic sector, registered unemployment decreased above all in the construction sector, whilst it increased in the agriculture, industry and services sectors.

Original story: Eje Prime

Translation: Carmel Drake

BBVA: Housing Market Makes A Strong Start To 2017

10 May 2017 – Europa Press

BBVA’s latest report highlights the “positive” evolution of the real estate market at the beginning of 2017, given that house purchases are still being “backed” by mortgage financing, construction is continuing to grow and house sales are maintaining their upwards trend.

At least that is according to the “Real Estate Observatory of Spain”, compiled by BBVA Research, the financial entity’s research service and BBVA’s Real Estate area, which states that the recent review of the macroeconomic scenario by BBVA, which forecasts GDP growth of 3% this year, introduces “an upwards bias into the forecasts for 2017”.

In this sense, the entity highlights that house sales maintained their growth rate, supported by the “strong performance” in terms of employment and mortgage loans, whilst construction activity also “remained dynamic”.

According to data from the General Council of Notaries, during the first two months of 2017, 72,371 homes were sold, up by 13.9% compared to a year ago, but in line with the average for 2016 as a whole.

Amongst the factors that BBVA points to as reasons for the improvement in the real estate sector, are the labour market in Spain, which “has continued to improve”, as reflected by Social Security sign-on data, such as the Active Population Survey (EPA). According to the EPA, the number of people in employment grew by 0.6% during the first quarter of the year.

In addition, credit conditions remain “favourable” for households. Interest rates are at minimum levels: the mortgage rate for new operations remains at around 2.2%; meanwhile, the 12-month Euribor rate hit a new minimum in April, closing at -0.119%.

The mortgage market supports residential demand

Moreover, the mortgage market is continuing to drive residential demand. New loans to buy a home rose by 23.5% YoY during the first quarter, excluding refinancings, according to data from the Bank of Spain.

In turn, during the first two months of 2017, almost 12,800 housing permits were granted (20.3% YoY).

Finally, BBVA highlights that the dynamics in the market for land “are still positive”, given that during the first two months of the year, the number of transactions involving land rose by 12.8% YoY, which represents an increase in the traded surface area of 8.8% in one year.

Original story: Europa Press 

Translation: Carmel Drake

HI Partners Acquires Hotel Incosol in Marbella

17 November 2016 – Expansión

HI Partners, the investment and hotel management company owned by Banco Sabadell, has just completed the purchase of Incosol Hotel-Medical Spa in Marbella, one of the icons of luxury on the Costa del Sol. The firm plans to undertake significant investment to remodel and reopen the establishment, which has been closed for several years as a result of the bankruptcy and subsequent liquiditation of the Cádiz based group Jale.

At the end of February, the hotel company led by Alejandro Hernández-Puértolas managed to persuade the commercial judge of Cádiz, which is leading the bankruptcy proceedings, to award HI Partners both the property and the brand, for €20 million. This sum had to be paid to the creditor banks of Incosol, who were Sabadell and Sareb, with a 50% stake each.

Both entities were owed a debt of €30 million and agreed to accept a discount of €10 million.

Nevertheless, the Social Security – which had filed a claim for a debt amounting to €4 million – challenged the decision and the sale was suspended. Now, the judge has dismissed that appeal and has ruled in favour of HI Partners again, which has now managed to close the operation.

According to sources consulted, HI Partners has paid €20 million to Banco Sabadell – its parent company – which had previously acquired the debt that was owed to Sareb to simplify the operation.

HI Partners’ aim now is to launch an ambitious project to revive the Marbella establishment and recover its lost splendour.

Hotel Incosol, which was founded by the 1970s by the Marqués de Villaverde, became the most prestigious medical-hotel complex in Europe during the golden years of Marbella. All kinds of Spanish and international celebrities passed through its doors, until the tourist complex was forced to closed in 2012, as a result of the crisis involving the real estate group Jale, which had acquired Incosol from the Basque García-Egocheaga family in 2007 for €50 million, in a complex financial operation.

Original story: Expansión (by Sergi Saborit)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Atxa Buys Podavines Building In Donostia For €10M

10 November 2016 – Diario Vasco

The Podavines de Amara building in San Sebastián-Donostia was sold on Tuesday to a property developer who is going to convert the property into (unsubsidised) housing. The Department for Social Security organised an auction for the land…and just one bidder participated, Atxa, S.A., who will pay the starting price of €9,959,000. The proceeds will be paid to the Department for Social Security, which will use the funds to finance pensions payments, according to sources at the Government’s Sub-delegation in Guipúzcoa.

The Department for Social Security carried out the public auction of this property on Tuesday and the building was awarded to the company Atxa S.A., which, given that it was the only firm to submit a bid, logically offered the minimum tender price of €9,959,000. The State’s Central Administration will conduct checks over the next few day to ensure that the company does not have any debts with the Department for Social Security and will proceed to formalise the award of the property, according to sources at the Government’s Sub-delegation in Guipúzcoa.

This building, located at the intersection of Calle José María Salaberria, Paseo de Errondo and Avenida Carlos I, has been unoccupied for the last year and a half. Its previous tenant, the Department for Social Security, moved to new facilities in Riberas de Loiola at the beginning of February last year. The building is 43 years ago and the urban planning classification for the land is residential. The property comprises a ground floor plus four other above ground floors and three basement floors. Its total above ground surface area amounts to 9,534m2 (it has a useful constructed surface area of 8,351 m2, according to registry and cadastral data) and a further 1,560 m2 under ground. In reality, the building has three entrances (on Podavina 1 and 3 and on Avenida de Carlos I, 34-36-38) (…).

The company that has purchased the plot clearly considers that the land has significant potential to be used for unsubsidised housing. Diario Vasco has made contact with the company but its spokesperson was not able to specify timeframes or clarify whether the property will be demolished or renovated for the new residential project. (…).

Original story: Diario Vasco

Translation: Carmel Drake

Park Street Advisors Pulls Out Of Husa Rescue Plan

9 May 2016 – Expansión

Park Street Advisors, the London fund specialising in distressed assets, which was going to come to Husa’s rescue, has got cold feet. The group has ruled out the possibility of developing the agreement that it had reached with the Gaspart family to create a joint venture to take control of the parent company, Chain, and inject €1.5 million to ensure its continuity.

Sources close to the company owned by the Gaspart family have confirmed that “this operation will not go ahead”, although “they do not rule out possible future collaborations”.

The agreement with Park Street was announced in January last year, when Husa tried to convince its creditors to approve an agreement that proposed a discount of 95% on its €221 million debt. In exchange, the company committed to return €5 million over the next five years, thanks to the agreement with Park Street, and whereby ensure the continuity of the business that has maintained the group.

Joan Gaspart (pictured above) managed to obtain approval for the agreement from the group’s four main companies last summer; the others filed for liquidation. Over the last few months, they have been filing for bankruptcy, with a view to liquidating some of the other small companies, such as Husa Service Hostelería, which recently suspended its payments in Commercial Court number 3 in Barcelona.

Last summer, the agreement with the Treasury and Social Security, to whom Husa still owes €20 million, remained pending.

Although that matter has still not be resolved, the official of Commercial Court number 3 in Barcelona raised preliminary protective measures under which all of Husa’s companies would remain active.

In its heyday in 2007, the chain owned by the former President of FC Barcelona and the President of Tourism in Barcelona, managed around 200 assets, of which around 140 were hotels and the rest were restaurants. The chain currently operates twelve hotels in Spain and Belgium.

But not all of the business was lost. In recent years, prior to the creditors’ bankruptcy, the Gaspart family transferred some of the hotels that it operated, mainly those that worked the best, to another family company called Atiram, which is run by Joan Gaspart’s daughter, María Gaspart Bueno, as the sole director.

Original story: Expansión (by Marisa Anglés)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Podemos Positions Itself Against Socimis & The RE Recovery

26 April 2016 – Negocios.com

The political party led by Pablo Iglesias (pictured above) wants to put a stop to these investment companies, which are responsible for investing billions of euros each year.

Podemos has proposed an attack on the Socimis (listed real estate investment companies), whose appearance has helped the recovery of the real estate sector in recent times. Pablo Iglesias has put the tax structures of Socimis, private equity firms and entities holding foreign securities (ETVE) in the firing line; he says that he wants to “ensure productive investment and tax equity”. And it is true that the tax treatment of Socimis is different to the rules that apply to other companies, but the Socimis also have to comply with certain requirements, such as holding share capital of €5 million, and not €3,000 like an SL, and listing on the stock exchange, such as the MAB, IBEX 35 or Main Market.

– Tax rate of 0%. Socimis are taxed at a rate of 0% for Corporation Tax purposes.

– Special rules need to be taken into account for entities that have been taxed under a general regime that start paying tax under the Socimi regime: if ownership of a property is transferred prior to the application of the Socimi regime, then the rental income shall be understood to be generated on a linear basis (unless proven otherwise) during the holding period, and so the previous tax regime and the Socimi regime will be applied to the rental income on a proportional basis.

In addition, Podemos also wants to axe Sicavs, control the shareholders and the money in cash, limit the maximum percentages per shareholder and have them monitored by the Tax Authorities and not by the CNMV like now.

Encourage “informers” and allow tax inspectors to work under cover in order to combat tax fraud. The informer would be rewarded with some of the economic fine imposed on the offender, whilst a fund would be created for paying tax confidants.

This is part of the Comprehensive Plan to Combat Fraud that will be presented to the Economic Committee on Wednesday. According to the text, tax revenues would increase by between 1% and 1.5%.

Moreover, Podemos considers that it would be worthwhile to integrate all of the networks of the Tax Authorities and the regional and state Social Security departments for greater coordination.

Meanwhile, Podemos’s proposals also include lowering the criminal liability threshold for tax offences to €50,000, as well as increasing, in general, the “prescription period” to ten years, applying the penalties currently provided for when the defrauded amount exceeds €120,000.

Original story: Negocios.com

Translation: Carmel Drake

Hotel Incosol Is Sold To A Spanish Hotel Group For €20M

26 February 2016 – El Mundo

The iconic Hotel Incosol in Marbella was sold on Tuesday (23 February 2016) to a Spanish hotel group and the consideration paid, more than €20 million, is thought to be sufficient for the workers to receive €2 million, according to reports from the lawyers advising the bankruptcy proceedings of the JALE group, which owns the hotel.

According to those sources, the buyers have also purchased the brand, and so it is clear that the intention is to revive the luxury establishment and benefit from the name that it has made for itself in health tourism since the 1970s. According to these sources, the banks – Sareb and Banco Sabadell – have ended up accepting a significant discount on the debt, which amounted to approx. €30 million in total.

The operation has been made possible, according to the sources, by the diligence of the judge of the Cádiz court, Manuel Ruiz de Lara, who authorised the bankruptcy administration to sell the hotel in its entirey (and not piecemeal) and for the money obtained to be paid to the bankruptcy creditors.

In any case, it is likely that a dispute will arise with the Social Security authorities, which will end up in the courts. Nevertheless, the money for the 158 workers seems to be guaranteed.

In fact, less than a year ago, the Social Security authorities opposed the sale of the hotel to a buyer, after negotiations had taken place with up to 40 different parties interested in acquiring the property. According to sources close to the bankruptcy proceedings, the debt with the Social Security amounted to around €5 million.

The Incosol Hotel was the last large asset left to be liquidated by the Cádiz group JALE, which is immersed in bankruptcy proceedings in which the owner, José Antonio López Esteras, has filed complaints to the previous bankruptcy administrators, as well as to the General Council of Judicial Power regarding the actions of the previous judge, Nuria Orellana.

Original story: El Mundo

Translation: Carmel Drake

BBVA Predicts House Building Boom In 2016

5 January 2016 – El Economista

BBVA predicts that there will be a “boost” in house construction over the “next few quarters”, in light of the favourable development, at the end of last year, of indicators such as cement consumption, employment in the sector and transactions involving land.

Those are the explanations provided by BBVA in its latest “Real Estate Flash Report for Spain”, which states that the 13.2% reduction in new build construction permits in October, following an otherwise positive 2015, “may well be temporary”.

On the other hand, the financial institution says that “the other variables reflect that construction activity is likely to continue to grow, although from very low levels”.

Firstly, the report argues that cement consumption recovered in October after decreasing in September; and that the number of employees registered for Social Security purposes in the construction sector also experienced “robust” growth during the months of October and November, putting an end to the lethargy of the previous four months.

In the same way, the financial institution says that business owners’ opinions regarding the future evolution of the residential sector improved in November as a result of an increase in order books.

Finally, the report points out that the land transaction data relating to the third quarter reflects a 72.3% YoY increase in terms of the surface area of land sold.

In parallel to the improvement in property developer activity, BBVA highlighted that demand for housing is continuing to grow thanks to the improvement in the economy. Moreover, it forecasts that, if the current trend in terms of house purchases remains stable, almost 400,000 homes will have been sold in 2015.

Original story: El Economista

Translation: Carmel Drake