31 July 2017 – Expansión
In August, an amendment to the regulations governing the Alternative Investment Market will enter into force, which has led to a wave of Socimi debuts on the stock market in July to circumvent the new requirements.
Six new Socimis debuted on the stock market in July, an unusually high level of activity compared to previous months. The reason is that on 1 August the new circular published by the Alternative Investment Market (MAB) will enter into force. It introduces changes for debuting on the stock market and will affect all companies wanting to list from next month (August) onwards, in particular, Socimis. The amendment sees a toughening up of the conditions to debut on the stock market, given that it imposes some very demanding requirements for minority shareholders.
The change is very specific: “At the time of listing, companies must have minority investors owning shares that are worth less than €2 million or 25% of the company’s share capital”, explained José Luis Palao, Partner of the Mercantile Department at Garrigues. Minority shareholders are considered to be those that hold less than 5% of the share capital. Until now, the regulations allowed companies a grace period of one year to fulfil this requirement.
Manuel López, Partner of Financial Regulatory Law at Ashurst, considers that some Socimis have formed closed-end funds of sorts that have no interest in allowing access to minority shareholders. The exception to the regulations that existed benefitted this type of company in particular, as they enjoyed additional time to adapt themselves.
In this sense, López understands that the regulations are reasonable and reflect what the Socimis are designed to be – entities with the vocation to expand and attract new investors, aimed at boosting the real estate sector. His colleague, Ismael Fernández Antón, Partner of Real Estate Law at the same firm, considers that “the legislation has not become less flexible, but rather more coherent”.
Although Circular 1/2017 does not explain the reasons for the change, the experts agree that the market for Socimis has reached maturity and does not require any further encouragement. The MAB was prudent at the beginning, offering these companies a certain amount of freedom to promote their growth. Fernández Antón says that “this measure was always going to have a sell-by date”, given that the Socimis already represent an attractive vehicle for real estate investment in Spain. Moreover, the modification represents a guarantee to “limit the desire to use them as a platform for pure fiscal optimisation”, says López.
The change only affects companies that start trading from August, in such a way that those that have debuted recently still benefit from the exception. This has meant that, in the last month, the rate of Socimi debuts on the stock market has multiplied. Those who have acted quickly can enjoy a period of one year to fulfil this requirement regarding the diffusion of shareholders.
Although almost 40 Socimis trade on the stock market, only five are listed on the Main Exchange and only two of those form part of the Ibex 35: Merlin Properties and Colonial. Within the last few days, the entities Numulae, Bay Hotels & Leisure and AM Locales have all debuted on the MAB.
Original story: Expansión (by Jesús de las Casas)
Translation: Carmel Drake