US firms make up a quarter of the largest 100 companies by deal volume in Europe. Those from Germany, the UK, France, and the Netherlands provide the next biggest groupings.
What does it take to be officially recognised as a member of the top 100 real estate investors in Europe? About €1 bn is the empirical answer. For the seventh year in a row, we have produced a ranking of the biggest beasts in the region when it comes to buying and selling commercial and residential property. And, our research shows that if you are a company that transacted over €1 bn – counting both investments and disposals – you are considered to be a leader of the pack as far as the PropertyEU ranking goes.
For most companies, it takes a number of deals to rack up a transaction volume of €1 bn and over. But in some cases, as with Korea’s NPS and Hong Kong-based CK Asset Holdings, just a single deal can catapult a company into the Top100 league. Both investors purchased trophy buildings in London for over €1 bn. Then there are those which just failed to make the cut. GLL Real Estate Partners, the Germany-based firm owned by Australia’s Macquarie Group, transacted €991 mln in the 2018 calendar year, while Madison International and DIC Asset each secured just a fraction less than was required.
To head off any criticism and displeasure among those not named here: does PropertyEU regard any company not in this ranking as being less important? Of course not! For one thing, we have noticed how the constituents of the Top100 can swing from one year to the next. It only takes one or two very large deals and all of a sudden, the firm is a big, big hitter. If a company is listed one year for an outsized deal and doesn’t replicate the feat the next, does that make the company a lesser player? We don’t think so.
We also know the data cannot be perfect. There will surely be companies that we somehow missed or for whom the data is incorrect. It can happen if firms do not get back to us with data when we approach them directly as we have done for 450 companies. We thank those that did respond to us with their data. To be upfront about it with full disclosure, about 40% of companies on this list did submit their data or issued press releases earlier this year divulging 2018 transactional data, so that is primary research. For those companies that did not provide data directly, we looked at our deal data resources and relied heavily on research conducted by Real Capital Analytics (RCA), to whom we are very grateful.
Thirdly, at PropertyEU we cover transactions of way more than the 100 firms listed here. Indeed, there are some very familiar names from 101 onwards that we cover on an almost weekly basis. Some are very active, yet their cumulative deal sizes may not top €1 bn due to smaller average transaction values.
Fourthly, we have shied away from counting real estate finance deals or pure debt deals. In the case of firms such as Cerberus, this can have an impact. Cerberus was active in €11.64 bn of transactions in 2018 but the figure for hard assets as opposed to NPLs is the one we are looking at. Nevertheless, it still managed to top the charts in three different tables: Residential, Portfolio Transactions and Spain. That is down to the €4 bn Project Marina deal with Spanish bank, BBVA.
Finally, we recognise performance is the benchmark many firms would most highly prize. If we could access everyone’s performance data and be able to compare apples to apples, that would surely be the elixir.
COUNTRIES OF ORIGIN
We counted 20 different countries that the top 100 hail from if we include ‘Luxembourg-based’ Corestate Capital whose control centre is really in Germany. Those at the very top of the list (the top 20) come from either the US, Germany, Switzerland, France, or the UK. A quarter of the firms are headquartered in the US (26 firms). Germany-headquartered firms are the next largest contingent (17 firms), UK companies make up the third largest group (13), followed by France (12), the Netherlands (5), Switzerland and Canada (4 each), Spain, Korea and Sweden (2 each).
Crunching the numbers tells us that the average member of the Top100 club carried out around €1.77 bn of fresh investments. As in previous years, firms in general made positive net investments. However, it is noticeable that some sold more than they acquired, while for others it was finely balanced.
TOP RANKED FIRMS
As with last year’s ranking, US-listed firm The Blackstone Group takes the top spot, having transacted just over €17 bn in 2018. In terms of total enterprise value (TEV), which includes debt, the company is much bigger, however, at €25 bn.
After Blackstone, there is a quite a different look to those in the upper echelons. This year, Allianz, Swiss Life AM, Vonovia, AXA Group, Patrizia, Amundi, Primonial REIM, CBRE Global Investors and Aberdeen Standard Investors comprise the top 10.
There is no place for China Investment Corporation (CIC) which came 2nd in last year’s ranking because it bought logistics company Logicor from Blackstone for €12.25 bn. Banco Popular – a big Spanish seller in 2017 – makes no appearance either this time around.
Two firms at least should be noted for climbing much higher. Germany’s Vonovia is placed 4th, a huge jump from 45th position last time round. The giant residential landlord, established in 2015 as the product of a merger between Deutsche Annington and Gagfah, had a monster year in 2018. Standout deals include the takeover of Victoria Park, the Swedish residential company for over €1 bn, and Buwog Group from neighbouring Austria for €5.2 bn.
For this year’s ranking, the resi sector provided the biggest deals out of all the property asset classes, underlining the point. There is a fundamental reason why demand is rising among institutional investors for residential property – there is simply not enough adequate affordable housing in Europe. And this seems very much top of mind for Vonovia and its CEO Rolf Buch.
Vonovia might be one of the most active property companies in Europe right now, but it still only has a market share of less than 2% of the German housing market. Buch said in a recent financial update, ‘We cannot solve the tense situation of people looking for housing by ourselves. Extraordinary investments are required in new construction, more senior-friendly housing and – very importantly – more climate protection; according to estimates, up to €800 bn will need to be invested nationwide by 2030. We definitely need the capital of investors and the performance of large companies – independent of their ownership structures.’
The second company to highlight for completely different reasons is Aberdeen Standard Investments (ASI). This time it has slotted into 8th position, up significantly from 31st following the merger between Aberdeen Asset Management and Standard Life in 2017. The merger has been questioned given some loss of AUM in various parts of the business, but in real estate it seems the combination has given birth to a bigger transactional animal.
Other significant movers are Allianz up to 2nd spot overall after 12th last time; Swiss Life AM coming in at 3rd place after 21st in the previous ranking; Primonial REIM slipping into the top 10, and Invesco moving up from 35th to 20th place. Another big standout is M7 Real Estate, which has gone from 53rd to 21st.
In total, the top 100 bought around €180 bn of real estate in 2018.