U.S. private equity group Centerbridge Partners has appointed investment banks to sell Spanish property services firm Aktua, five sources familiar with the matter said.
Centerbridge is seeking to take advantage of an improvement in the Spanish property market where valuations of real estate assets are recovering after taking a hit during Spain's economic downturn.
The New York-based fund has hired Bank of America (BAC.N) and Barclays (BARC.L) to launch a sales process for the company which offers a wide range of real estate services including property maintenance, rental collection and loan management, the sources said. Bank of America and Barclays declined to comment while Centerbridge had no immediate comment.
Aktua is expected to have core earnings of between 40 and 50 million euros this year and could be valued at around 300 million euros ($329 million), or 7 to 7.5 times its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA), two of the sources said.
The company, which employs more than 400 people in Spain, has already drawn interest from a series of international buyout funds including London-based Permira, another source said.
Permira, which is in the process of selling two of its Spanish portfolio companies, Cortefiel and Telepizza, declined to comment.
The sale of Aktua has yet to start but bidders are already lining up to examine the asset and its growth potential, the sources said.
REAL ESTATE REBOUND
Aktua has roughly 5 billion euros of assets under management of which 2.4 billion are real estate assets and the rest loans.
Based in Madrid, it makes an attractive consolidation platform for private equity firms which could adopt a so-called buy and build strategy and combine it with other Spanish property management firms, the sources said.
This would generate a flurry of deals giving U.S. investors, which swooped on low-priced Spanish real estate assets during the financial crisis, an opportunity to capitalize from Spain's economic rebound.
Real estate prices dropped by more than 35 percent in Spain between 2007 and 2014, according to the national statistics institute.
Centerbridge broke into the Spanish market in 2012. It paid 100 million euros to buy Aktua from Spanish bank Banco Español de Credito (Banesto).
Other U.S. investment firms could go down the same route and divest property firms they've held for the past three years, one of the sources said.
In 2013, New York-based buyout firm Apollo (APO.N) bought 85 percent of Santander's property management unit Altamira for 664 million euros.
Another Spanish bank, La Caixa [CAILA.UL], sold 51 percent of its real estate services arm, Servihabitat Gestión Inmobiliaria, for 185 million euros in 2013.