MAGAZINE: Top 100 dealmakers in Europe ranking

Our barometer of real estate dealmaking in 2021 reflects a post-pandemic rebound, characterised by a large number of major platform deals.

After global real estate transactions slowed to a trickle during the pandemic, the floodgates reopened in 2021 with a string of takeovers and large portfolio deals.

The top end of PropertyEU’s annual dealmakers ranking in 2021 is dominated by companies involved in Europe’s biggest mergers and acquisitions, crowned by the €18 bn megadeal in October that saw German residential giant Vonovia combine with another DAX-listed company, Deutsche Wohnen, to create a portfolio of 568,000 apartments valued at around €90 bn, including a sizeable portion of Berlin’s coveted rental market.

The Vonovia-Deutsche Wohnen deal combined two of the strongest elements of the real estate market in 2021: the residential sector and Germany, which confirmed its status as the second biggest destination for real estate investment capital in the world behind the US. The country’s total transaction volume grew by 40% to €111 bn, according to CBRE. Vonovia and Deutsche Wohnen paved the way for their merger with a €2.45 bn deal that transferred nearly 15,000 Berlin apartments to three municipal housing companies, one of which, Howoge, can be found in 86th place in our ranking.

While Germany was Europe’s largest market in terms of deal volume, the Nordic nations achieved even more spectacular growth, with transactions in Sweden up by 93% on 2020. This included a startling growth rate of 117% in the office market, compared to just 10% in Germany.

Fourth place in our ranking was taken by Sweden’s Heimstaden Bostad after it acquired Akelius’s 28,000-strong residential portfolio – around 60% of it in Germany – for €9.1 bn. Mergers and acquisitions propelled several Swedish firms into our top 25: as well as Heimstaden, Castellum acquired Kungsleden for €2.6 bn while Stockholm-based Corem Property bought out Klövern in a deal worth €5.2 bn, quadrupling its assets under management to more than €8 bn in the process. Staying in Sweden, EQT completed one of Europe’s largest ever logistics deals, the sale of a portfolio of 132 assets to Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund GIC for €3 bn.

The post-Covid rebound runs throughout the ranking. Whereas in 2020 our research identified 79 companies that had completed €1 bn worth of transactions or more, last year that number grew to 130. Last year’s biggest dealmaker, Swiss Life, dropped to seventh place in the 2022 ranking despite doing more business by volume in 2021.

Below the Vonovia-Deutsche Wohnen takeover, the busiest investors included Top 10 stalwarts CBRE IM, Blackstone, AXA IM Alts and Patrizia. Blackstone was particularly active in the UK, picking up Bourne Leisure, Asda’s warehouse portfolio in a sale-and-leaseback deal with the supermarket chain’s new owners TDR Capital and the Issa brothers, and listed investor-developer St Modwen for a combined outlay of more than €6 bn. UK-based firms were notably cautious with their capital, with only Abrdn and Tristan Capital Partners featuring in the top 40 buyers.

Not everybody experienced a resurgence in activity. In fact, around 40% of the companies that returned from last year’s ranking recorded smaller transaction volumes in 2021. German residential landlord Adler Group fell from seventh to 74th place, reflecting a turbulent year that culminated in KPMG refusing to sign off its annual accounts and the resignation of the board. Vonovia has taken a 20.5% stake in the company but CEO Rolf Buch ruled out a full takeover, suggesting that the wave of big resi mergers may be at an end. Also dropping out of last year’s top 10 are US players Ares Management and Goldman Sachs, as the revival was driven largely by EU-based firms.

Bucking the trend was Canadian giant Brookfield Asset Management, which took German office landlord Alstria off the stock exchange in a €3.5 bn buyout in November and purchased the UK’s Arlington science park for €835 mln. Last year’s runner-up Hines recorded a smaller deal volume than in 2020 (down from €7.6 bn to €5.7 bn), but continues to expand its European base. The Houston-based company launched a third European value-add fund early in 2022, suggesting it may well move back up the ranking next year.

The full ranking + company profiles appears in the June/July issue of PropertyEU Magazine


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