Warren Buffett Wants to Buy Torre Agbar for €150M

6 February 2019 – Expansión

The multi-millionaire investor Warren Buffet wants to buy the iconic Torre Agbar in Barcelona for around €150 million through his investment vehicle, Berkshire Hathaway, which the US magnate uses to deploy his asset purchase policy around the world. The information was revealed by Efe and confirmed by Berkshire Hathaway itself, which has announced several real estate investments in Spain in recent days, but without specifying any details.

The plan has been decided “directly” by Warren Buffett, one of the richest men in the world, in collaboration with Alessandro Proto, the senior executive at Proto Group, the company associated with Buffett in Barcelona.

The purchase proposal for one of the real estate icons of the Catalan capital, which currently belongs to the Socimi Merlin, and which was renamed Torre Glòries a few months ago, will be formalised before a notary within the next few days.

A few days ago, Berkshire Hathaway reported that it is going to invest €35 million in Spain to open 150 real estate agencies during the course of this year with Proto Group (…).

Berkshire Hathaway, which has more than 1,300 offices in 47 states around the USA and which employs 43,000 agents in the real estate sector, started its international expansion two years ago, primarily in Latin America and Europe, focusing on medium, medium-high and high-level residential properties (…).

Torre Glòries comprises offices and has an occupancy rate of 75%, with several technological tenants, including Facebook and Oracle. The tower spans 37,614 m2.

Original story: Expansión

Translation: Carmel Drake

BNP Paribas Buys Agbar’s HQ in Barcelona for €60M

8 January 2019 – Expansión

The real estate arm of BNP Paribas has acquired the headquarters of the Agbar group located in Barcelona for more than €60 million. The building forms part of the office complex known as Distrito 38 and until now was owned by the US bank Goldman Sachs, which purchased it as part of a batch of assets in 2015 for €355 million.

It was one of the last operations to be closed in 2018 in Barcelona but it has not been published until now. The building used to be managed by Patrimony, the real estate firm founded by Jordi Tremoleda, and the previous owner was advised by Savills Aguirre Newman during the sale.

The property was designed by the Japanese architect Arata Isozaki and has a surface area of more than 16,200 m2. It was first occupied by Agbar in 2015, when that firm moved from Torre Agbar, the iconic building designed by Jean Nouvel, to this office complex located on Paseo de la Zona Franca in Barcelona, in search of a more functional building. In theory, the water management company said that it was going to be a temporary home whilst a new corporate headquarters was constructed, but for the time being, there is no information that a new transfer is being planned.

Agbar left Jean Nouvel’s tower after having agreed its sale with the fund manager Emin Capital, but that operation was not executed in the end and the Socimi Merlin Properties ended up acquiring the building at the beginning of 2017 for €142 million.

Despite being a recently constructed building, Agbar’s current headquarters has already changed owner several times. The office complex was designed by the real estate company Habitat, when that property developer was still owned by the Figueras family. The office development was then acquired by Caja Madrid and, in 2015, by which point it was in the hands of Bankia, it was sold to Goldman Sachs. Sources close to the US investment giant said yesterday that in just three years the bank has achieved a very profitable operation.

According to provisional data, as we wait for the final operations closed in 2018 to be published, Barcelona recorded a good year in terms of real estate investment, albeit below 2017. The consultancy firm CBRE estimates that the outlay on buildings could have amounted to €1.973 billion, compared with €2.177 billion the previous year. A large part of these operations (46%) correspond to the office sector, which accounted for investment of €906 million, compared with €757 million in 2017. According to the same report, 68% of the purchasers that invested in Barcelona were foreigners. And of the domestic investors, half were Socimis.

Original story: Expansión (by Marisa Anglés)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Merlin Leases 3 Floors in Torre Glòries to Oracle

16 July 2018 – Eje Prime

Torre Glòries is welcoming a new technological giant to its facilities. Merlin Properties is going to be Oracle’s landlord after it leased three floors in its building, located in the 22@ district, to the US firm. The multinational will join Facebook in the property after it signed up to lease ten floors from the Socimi back in May.

Oracle has leased 3,500 m2 of office space in the property, known in the city as Torre Agbar (after the former owner of the building) to locate some of its Netsuite team there, the cloud services company that it acquired in 2016, according to Expansión.

Merlin’s flagship property in Barcelona, standing 142 metres tall and with a gross leasable area of 37,614 m2, has been reformed in its entirety in recent years with an investment of €15 million. After being ruled out by the EMA (European Medicines Agency), the Socimi decided to convert its building into a multi-tenant space for the office sector.

The property contains 34 floors of offices, of which Merlin has now let thirteen at a variable price of around €25/m2/month. A new major operator is entering the 22@ district, Barcelona’s techie centre and currently the most sought-after neighbourhood in the Catalan capital. During the first quarter of the year, the office market grew by 4% in Barcelona with the leasing of 76,000 m2 of space.

Original story: Eje Prime

Translation: Carmel Drake

Merlin To Invest €460M On Improving Its RE Portfolio

24 October 2017 – El Español

Merlin Properties plans to invest around €459 million in the renovation and improvement of several office buildings, shopping centres and logistics facilities that comprise its real estate portfolio. The entity plans to undertake this work between 2018 and 2021, according to reports from the Socimi in which Santander and BBVA hold a stake.

The company led by Ismael Clemente (pictured above) calculates that these improvements will generate additional revenues from rental income amounting to €60.9 million per annum.

Merlin estimates that these improvements, together with its management and the natural growth of the assets, will allow it to raise its current revenue from rental income by 22% and whereby exceed the €500 million threshold, without the need to purchase any new properties.

That is according to the company, which is currently the largest listed real estate firm by asset value. It is holding its “Investor Day” in Barcelona this week, despite the uncertainty currently hanging over Cataluña.

During the event, the firm unveiled a presentation, which has been submitted to Spain’s National Securities Exchange Commission (CNMV), detailing the assets that Merlin plans to renovate.

The list includes the building that houses Sacyr’s headquarters in the centre of Madrid, at numbers 83 and 85 on Paseo de la Castellana, the heart of the capital’s business district.

The Socimi will spend €20 million on a comprehensive renovation of that property, which it expects to complete by 2020 and which will involve a radical change to its external appearance, which will be completely glazed.

Merlin’s list of renovations also includes investments and construction work in Barcelona, in properties as iconic as Torre Glories, the building formerly known as Torre Agbar.

There, the firm will spend €15 million to convert the tower into a “multi-tenant” office building. Moreover, it will install an observatory at the top of the tower, on the 30th floor (…).

Original story: El Español

Translation: Carmel Drake

Threat Of Cataluña Independence Hurts Spain’s Largest RE Companies

10 October 2017 – Expansión

One of the sectors that is being hardest hit by the insecurity generated in Cataluña following the referendum on 1 October is real estate. In just one week, the large companies in the sector have seen their stock market valuations decrease by €717 million and how the credit ratings agency Moody’s has issued warnings about the negative effect of the political tension on the growth of rental income, occupancy rates and asset valuations.

The Socimi that is most exposed to Cataluña is Merlin. The real estate giant led by Ismael Clemente owns assets worth almost €1,500 million in Cataluña. The real estate company in which Santander and BBVA own stakes is also one of the companies that has most backed this market over the last year, positioning the Catalan capital, together with Lisbon, as one of its markets for highest growth.

In the context of that strategy, at the beginning of the year, Merlin purchased the iconic skyscraper Torres Glóries – also known as Torre Agbar – for €142 million. The building, which has a gross leasable area of 37,614 m2, is one of the candidates to house the European Medicines Agency (EMA), which will abandon its current location in London due to Brexit. Sources in the sector consider that the events of recent days completely eliminate Barcelona from the running, in favour of its rivals in the bid: Amsterdam, Dublin, Bratislava, Copenhagen and Milan.

Another Socimi with a significant portion of its assets in Cataluña is Colonial. The real estate company, which is headquartered in Barcelona, has almost 10% of its assets in the region. In the office segment alone, it owns assets worth €827 million in Cataluña, making it its third market after Paris, with €6,144 million, and Madrid, with €1,339 million. Yesterday (Monday), Colonial convened an extraordinary meeting of the Board of Directors to consider moving its headquarters (and in the end, approved their move to Madrid).

One of the projects that Colonial has underway was announced at the beginning of the year, in the form of an alliance with the company Inmo, the real estate subsidiary of the Puig family, for the development of Plaza Europa (Barcelona), with an investment of €32 million. The plan to construct a 21-storey building with a surface area of 14,000 m2 will be undertaken on a plot of land owned by the Puigs. Moreover, at the beginning of the year, Colonial started work to build a turnkey office building in the 22@ district, which will involve a total investment of €77 million and which will be ready by the middle of 2018.

In terms of the other Socimis that are listed on the main stock market, Hispana holds assets in Cataluña worth €255 million at the end of June (…). Meanwhile, Axiare owns four assets in the region (…) worth just over €126 million; and two of the assets in Lar’s portfolio are located in Cataluña (…), with a combined value of €116 million.

Amancio Ortega

(…) HNWIs have also been backing the Catalan market and, in particular, Pontegadea’s exposure to the region is significant. Amancio Ortega’s company does not disclose figures by country or autonomous region (…) however, in 2011 alone, it acquired three assets worth €233 million, including BBVA’s headquarters in Plaza Cataluña, for €100 million. It also owns important buildings on Paseo de Gràcia and Plaza Catalunya, and is the owner of the Inditex group’s largest stores.

Original story: Expansión (by R. Arroyo and M. Anglés)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Catella: RE Inv’t Rose By 60% During First 8 Months To €7,061M

25 September 2017 – Expansión

The Spanish real estate market is still a magnet for investment at the global level. In this way, during the 8 months to August, investment in tertiary real estate assets (in other words, non-residential properties) rose to €7,061 million. That volume is 62% higher than the figure registered during the same period in 2016, according to data from the consultancy firm Catella (…).

By type of properties, commercial assets accounted for 45% of the total investment, with a volume of more than €3,200 million, up by 52% compared to the first eight months of 2016. In fact, that figure already exceeds the amount recorded for last year as a whole and is very close to the record investment made in 2007, when commercial assets worth more than €3,590 million were sold, according to sources at the consultancy firm.

Of that amount, investment in shopping centres accounted for 60% of total retail investment, amounting to €1,929 million. The figure is explained by the completion of major operations, such as the purchase of Xanadú, in Arroyomolinos (Madrid), on which Intu Properties spent €530 million; and the operation involving Nueva Condomina, in Murcia, which Klépierre purchased for €233 million.


Large assets were not the only retail assets to spark interest: high-street premises were also on investors’ radars. As such, €711 million was spent on that type of property between January and August, with highlights including operations such as the purchase of Preciados 9, the future flagship Pull & Bear store in the centre of Madrid, by Generali for €98 million. Meanwhile, investors spent another €516 million on retail parks and supermarkets, with the operation involving a portfolio of nine retail parks leading the way – the South African investor Vukile spent €193 million on that purchase.

In the case of offices, investment increased by 46% to reach €1,512 million. “The Boston portfolio – comprising 14 office buildings located in Barcelona, Madrid and Valencia – owned by BBVA and acquired by Oaktree for €180 million has been the most important transaction so far this year. In Madrid, the most significant transaction saw the acquisition of the Manoteras business park by Tristan Capital (€103 million), whilst, in Barcelona, the most high-profile deal has been the purchase of Torre Agbar by Merlin Properties (€142 million”, say sources at Catella.

During the first 8 months of 2017, hotel purchases rose by 25% to reach €1,760 million, thanks to operations such as the one involving Edificio España, for €272 million, as well as the purchase starring the international fund London & Regional (which acquired four hotels located on the coast and islands for €240 million), as well as others involving Starwood and KKR.

Moreover, the logistics sector has not been left behind in terms of the increase in investment. Between January and August, that segment saw investment grow by 31% to reach €575 million. (…). In this area, the most significant operation has been the sale of GreenOak’s portfolio to P3 Logistics Park for €243 million.

Whilst retail assets were the star product by type of property, international funds continued to be the undisputed stars in terms of buyer profile.

Between January and August, funds accounted for 42% of the total volume invested; whilst real estate companies represented 28% of the total (…). Meanwhile, the Socimis, who were the most active investors in 2014 and 2015, have seen their share of the cake decrease to 11% so far this year.

“On the other hand, core investors have returned to the market, with the acquisition of prime properties located in Madrid and Barcelona. Insurance companies, family offices and other institutional investors have purchased assets such as offices and retail premises in Madrid, with yields of around 3%”, said Carlos López, Partner at Catella.


“…We expect 2017 to be a record-breaking year, with an investment volume of around €10,000 million, compared to the figures of more than €8,500 million in tertiary investment in 2016”, says López (…).

Original story: Expansión (by Rocío Ruiz)

Translation: Carmel Drake

JLL: RE Inv’t Amounts To c.€6,000M In H1 2017

27 June 2017 – Expansión

Investment in the real estate sector is registering record-breaking figures in the Spanish market once again. With three days left until the end of the first half of the year, the sale of buildings and land during the first six months of 2017 amounted to €5,991 million, according to the real estate consultancy firm JLL. “There is a lot of money ready to invest in Spain and when products come onto the market, the interest is unleashed. Investors still think that Spain has a lot of potential and that rents are going to rise, accompanied by the forecast economic growth in the country”, explained Borja Ortega, Director of Capital Markets at JLL.

The real estate investment of almost €6,000 million represents an increase of 70% compared to the figure recorded during the first six months of 2016 (€3,548 million), of which €3,000 million corresponded to non-residential asset purchases.

By type of property, offices and commercial assets account for most of the operations. “There is complete faith in Spain, with a clear commitment to both Madrid and Barcelona, and investors continue to seek out good spaces, which they will be able to lease easily”, said Ortega.

In the case of offices, the volume invested during the first six months of 2017 amounted to more than €1,200 million, up by 55% compared to the first half of last year. However, the forecast for 2017 as a whole is that office investment will reach €2,400 million, in line with 2016. During the first few months of 2017, several major operations were completed, such as the sale of Torre Agbar in Barcelona – which was acquired by the Socimi Merlin for €142 million – and the purchase of the Isla Chamartín complex in Madrid, which the fund Lone Star sold for €103 million. “In the case of Barcelona, the cumulative investment volume recorded since the start of the year amounts to €510.65 million, which means that it is almost equal to the total amount invested during the whole of 2016, when €521.50 million was spent in the city – this demonstrates the strong investor appetite that has characterised this first half of 2017”, said sources at the consultancy firm.

Towards a record year

Like in 2016, commercial assets (in particular, shopping centres) have knocked offices off of the top of the ranking as the asset that accounts for most investment. In this way, so far in 2017, investors have spent more than €2,400 million on commercial assets. Their purchases include the shopping centre that has starred in two operations in the last six months: Xanadú. This establishment, which is located in the Madrilenian town of Arroyomolinos, was acquired at the beginning of the year by the British group Intu Properties, which paid the fund Ivanhoe Cambridge €530 million. Three months later, Intu sold 50% of the centre to the manager TH Real Estate for €264 million.

The strong performance of the Spanish real estate sector during the first half of the year means that it is lining itself up for a record year. “Whilst last year, investment amounted to around €9,500 million, this year, I am sure that it will rise by 15%, to reach figures close to the records of 2007″, said Ortega.

In this sense, it is expected that several new operations will close before the end of the year, such as the sale of the Socimi Hispania’s office portfolio, worth €550 million; and of logistics land to be developed and the batch of Rea residences, by the manager Azora. “Now, the core funds are going to play a greater role, taking advantage of the exit of other more opportunistic and value-added investors, which are going to start selling off products that they purchased in recent years”, said the director at JLL.

Original story: Expansión (by Rocío Ruiz)

Translation: Carmel Drake

RE Investors Defy The Secessionist Threat & Back Barcelona

13 June 2017 – Expansión

There is no evidence that any real estate investors have revoked their plans to buy in Cataluña because of the sovereignty process. What’s more, in parallel to the secessionist threat, which was launched five years ago, the volume of investment has actually risen, from €450 million (in 2012) to €1,900 million (in 2016).

At the beginning, the funds expressed their concern and warned that their own bylaws prohibited them from investing outside of the Eurozone, and so if Cataluña became independent, they would be forced to withdraw. But their fear of a possible secession has gradually dissipated and the real estate consultants that advise them in their search for assets in Cataluña state that no one has asked about the issue for months (…).

The CEO of Cushman & Wakefield in Spain, Oriol Barrachina, corroborates that in all these years, “not a single operation (…) has failed due to the sovereignty process”. He states that “the economy throws aside all political problems” and Barcelona is growing at the same rate as Madrid, and at an even faster rate in certain segments (…).

The Director of Aguirre Newman in Cataluña, Anna Gener, said that, far from finding investors who are avoiding buying in Barcelona because of the process, she has seen “precisely the opposite trend: real estate operations have been increasingly carried out by international groups”. She explains that “the appetite from foreign funds to invest in Barcelona is increasingly greater and, in fact, the volume of operations is being limited by the shortage of real estate products up for sale: if more assets were to come onto the market, the investment volume would be greater”.

Furthermore, Gener hasn’t detected any impact in terms of the yields demanded either. “The yields at which investment operations are being closed in Barcelona are very similar to those recorded in Madrid”, she said.

In terms of the market of users, at Aguirre Newman, Gener said that “over the last few years, we have not worked with any multi-national company that has wanted to avoid establishing its headquarters in Barcelona for fear of an eventual secession”. The effect has been the opposite: “we have seen a rebound in the number of multi-nationals deciding to establish their headquarters in Barcelona, such as Tesla and Amazon” (…).

Meanwhile, the CEO of JLL in Cataluña, Jordi Guardia, added that the multi-nationals that are establishing their offices in Barcelona and its surrounding areas “are signing contracts with very long timeframes, which undoubtedly indicates a sign of confidence”.

According to Guardia, just like in the investment segment, more operations are not being closed due to the shortage of supply. “No new office buildings have been built for many years and so we now face a significant shortage in terms of availability”, he said. Despite that, very good volumes of office and logistics space are now being leased”.

The warnings from the large international investors regarding their reluctance to invest in a possible independent Cataluña have not only disappeared, they have been turned on their heads. Some of those who warned about the consequences of the secessionist threat a few years ago are now starring in some of the largest investments in Cataluña. Such is the case of the President of Merlin Properties, Ismael Clemente, who warned in 2014 that “the problem with Cataluña was harming the real estate market a lot” –  earlier this year, Merlin acquired Torre Agbar in Barcelona for €142 million.

Original story: Expansión (by Marisa Anglés)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Clemente: “Merlin May Participate In A Future Wave Of Socimi Mergers”

26 April 2017 – Cinco Días

He is one of the stars of the new real estate sector. In 2014, Ismael Clemente (…) created the Socimi Merlin Properties out of nothing. In less than three years, it had debuted on the Ibex 35 to become the largest player in the sector by market capitalisation. The company’s CEO convinced international funds to back the recovery in Spain and later on, he adopted an aggressive acquisitions policy.

First, Merlin acquired Testa from Sacyr, and then it absorbed the tertiary assets (shopping centres and offices) of Metrovacesa, which made way for Santander and BBVA to enter that company as major shareholders. Merlin Properties now has properties amounting to almost €10,000 million in its portfolio. Here, Cinco Días interviews the CEO.

Q: Merlin has grown very quickly. What are your plans now?

A: During 2017, we are focusing on managing our assets and on consolidating the company after several years of rapid growth. Over the next few years, we will invest in creating value from our properties, above all, rather than in buying more assets on the market. Right now, it is hard to justify any asset purchases to our shareholders because of the prices.

Q: In other words, you are going to withdraw from the market because of the high prices?

A: It seems like we have been very active in the market, given our recent acquisition of Torre Agbar in Barcelona, but really, since the middle of 2016, we have had a quiet period. Nevertheless, we knew that we wanted to increase our exposure in Barcelona and Lisbon and that is what we have done.

Q: What do you think about the future of the Socimis?

I think that we have a rather interesting period to look forward to because the Socimis have undergone a settling down period, and are now focusing on different specialisation strategies. There will be less purchasing activity and we will see more M&A activity between entities. (…).

Q: Might Merlin participate in any mergers?

A: Maybe, but it will take a while for the merger period to really get going. If we find something that we think may have value for our shareholders, then we may participate in the future wave of mergers between the Socimis.

Q: Why would Merlin be interested in that?

A: We would be interested if we could strengthen one of our areas of activity, if it was good for us from a cash flow point of view or if such an operation would contribute an asset that complemented the quality of our portfolio particularly well.

Q: Will we see mergers amongst the large players?

A: There are two very large players, us and Colonial, which is not actually a Socimi, even though it may as well be. Any of the large players could be interested in any of the small entities on the stock market, and even, eventually, on the MAB.

Q: Can we expect to see mergers in 2017?

A: It is still too early. I think that we will see some activity from 2018 onwards. What we are not going to see is mergers between real estate companies and residential developers. I don’t think that there will be any interaction between those two sectors. The starting point features five large players, including Colonial as a Socimi equivalent, and 30 entities on the MAB, where the largest players are GMP and Iba Capital. (…).

Original story: Cinco Días (by Alfonso Simón Ruiz)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Savills: Office Inv’t In Barcelona Exceeds Madrid For First Time Ever

25 April 2017 – La Vanguardia

Transactions in the Spanish office market amounted to almost €900 million during the first quarter of 2017, more than twice the figure recorded during the same period in 2016. Moreover, Barcelona exceeded Madrid in terms of investment, for the first time, with a differential of €50 million – investment in Barcelona amounted to €450 million – driven by the purchase of Torre Glòries, according to data from the real estate consultancy firm Savills.

Two mega-operations amounting to more than €100 million each boosted office investment during the first quarter, which represented 30% of the total figure recorded during the whole of 2016. Firstly, during the second week of January, Merlin Properties announced the purchase of Torre Glòries (Torre Agbar) for €142 million.

The second deal saw the sale of the so-called Boston portfolio, comprising 14 BBVA office buildings (eight in Barcelona, five in Madrid and one in Valencia), which were sold to Oaktree and Freo.

According to Savills, the operation involving Torre Glòries is one of the largest recorded in Barcelona in recent years, exceeded only by the €145 million that Deka spent in 2010 on the former headquarters of Caja Madrid on La Diagonal.

The fact that 20 of the 35 assets that changed hands during the quarter were located in Barcelona significantly increased the Catalan capital’s share of the national total. The city accounted for 52% of total investment, which allowed it to exceed Madrid for the first time in the historical series.

The volume of office investment in Barcelona amounted to almost €450 million, compared with €40 million during the same period in 2016. In Madrid, office investment exceeded €400 million, an amount that was distributed between thirteen assets. In interannual terms, the volume of investment in the capital increased by 60%. One of the major operations in Madrid was the sale of Barclays headquarters in Plaza de Colón, which was acquired by CBRE Global Investors for more than €55 million.

Original story: La Vanguardia

Translation: Carmel Drake