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Blackstone acquires a large stake in Spanish banks real estate portfolio

In a bid to contribute to Spain's robustly recovering economy, US asset manager, Blackstone Group LP has announced that it will acquire a majority stake in Spanish lender Banco Popular Español SA's real-estate portfolio.

Blackstone will control a 51% stake in a newly formed company that will include approximately 30 billion euros worth of Banco Popular's real-estate assets, including the banks real-estate management company, Aliseda.

Rescued by the European Union and Spanish authorities in June, Banco Popular was previously the last remaining weak link in the Spanish banking system since the property crashed in 2008. The lending institution had a portfolio largely characterised by foreclosures, undeveloped land and bad loans before it was sold to Banco Santander SA in June. The stake sale to Blackstone is a vital step towards Santander’s main goal of offering lending services to individuals and businesses, rather than managing billions of euros worth of bad real-estate assets.

Blackstone will now manage 51% of Banco Popular's real-estate assets valued at 10 billion euros (written down from approximately 30 billion euros) according to the statement, the largest real-estate portfolio sold in Spain and among the largest in Europe overall. "This significant investment reflects our continued confidence in the robust recovery of the Spanish economy," Jonathan Gray, Blackstone's global head of real estate, said in a statement.

The Spanish economy has expanded faster than many of its European counterparts, with an expected annual economic growth of 3% this year and rising property prices in major Spanish cities such as Madrid and Barcelona and coastal regions such as the Costa del Sol.

Blackstone's offer for the real estate assets exceeded that of two other unnamed investment firms that placed a bid for the stake, but the final amount paid remains undisclosed. The transaction between Blackstone and Santander is expected to close in the first quarter of 2018.

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