Benson Elliot buys in Spain

The London-based firm has acquired a shopping center in Alabecete from AXA Real Estate, and plans a transformation of it.

Benson Elliot Capital Management has acquired a shopping center in Albacete, Spain, and is planning to transform the property, it has announced.

Revealing details of its new retail asset, the London-based firm said there was increasing consumer demand in the country as Spain “accelerated” its recovery from recession. Its comment comes as Spain finds itself in a nascent economic recovery helped by tax cuts and a €6.3 billion economic stimulus package.

Though no acquisition price was stated, Benson Elliot is thought to have agreed a price of around €20 million. Its new asset, the Imaginalia shopping centre, is a 484,000 square feet property located in Castilla-La-Mancha, a regionally dominant city with a population of 172,000, between Madrid and the Alicante coast.

Completed in 2006 by Spanish developer Procom, the shopping center “benefits from limited local competition”, said the firm. It is currently 82 percent let by 33 tenants such as Toys R Us, cinema chain Yelmo, hypemarket Alacampo and electronics store Media Markt.

Trish Barrigan, Benson Elliot senior partner, said: “We were an early entrant into the Spanish market, as past experience in the country gave us the confidence to anticipate a return to economic growth and a recovery of the Spanish consumer. Imaginalia already attracts nearly four million visitors each year, and we believe our plans for the centre – as the Spanish recovery accelerates – will drive those numbers significantly higher.”

Benson Elliot entered the recovering Spanish market in 2011 with its Cornerstone office development project in Barcelona. Within seven months of handover, Benson Elliot had signed two significant leases taking overall occupancy to 64 percent.

Its deal in Spain reflects the ongoing interest in the country’s real estate with a myriad of firms and types of capital examine the country. At the same time, its Iberian neighbor Portugal is also attracting deals.

For example, California-based private equity firm Global Asset Capital recently acquired four properties in Lisbon from the Portuguese power company, DP-Energias de Portugal.

However, that deal was announced prior to an economic scare in the country as its biggest listed bank, Banco Espirito Santo, saw shares drop 36 percent last week and its shares suspended amid the discovery of accounting irregularities concerning debts. Today, Portugal’s central bank met the bank’s board of directors as it seeks to put into place a new management team in order to steer the company, hoping to calm fears that Portugal could lurch into a fresh crisis.