Spain’s Caixa Said to Plan Sale of Stake in Real Estate Manager

Spain’s Caixa Said to Plan Sale of Stake in Real Estate Manager
La Caixa has been forced to manage properties it repossessed by renting or selling them. Photographer: Xabier Mikel Laburu/Bloomberg

Spain’s La Caixa banking group plans to sell a stake in its real estate management company to tap demand from investors seeking to profit from the country’s property crash, people familiar with the plans said.

La Caixa, which owns Spain’s third-biggest bank, plans to offer investors a stake in the property management division it created as part of last month’s reorganization of its real estate arm, ServiHabitat, said the people, who asked not to be named because the information hasn’t been made public.

Investors are looking for ways to profit from Spanish lenders’ struggle to recover from a property crash that has left the industry with more than 180 billion euros ($233 billion) of soured real estate loans. Like its competitors, La Caixa has been forced to manage properties it repossessed by renting or selling them. Revenue from those operations doubled last year to 1.6 billion euros, according to the lender.

“A myriad of different players are entering the Spanish servicing market, from traditional international service providers to investors interested in controlling their asset management,” Vanesa Carceller, director for Spain at Bluestone Group, a financial-services specialist investor, said in a telephone interview, without referring to a specific transaction.

A spokeswoman for Barcelona-based La Caixa, who asked not to be named in line with company policy, declined to comment.

The group had net repossessed real estate valued at about 7 billion euros at the end of 2012. As part of a 2011 reorganization of La Caixa, the group transferred most of the real estate assets accumulated before that date to a holding company separate from its publicly traded bank.