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Blackstone Group LP (BX), builder of the biggest single-family rental home business in the U.S., is using its experience to replicate the model in Spain, where property prices have dropped up to 40 percent.

The world’s largest private-equity firm, which has spent $7.5 billion buying 40,000 homes in the U.S., agreed in July to purchase 18 apartment blocks from the city of Madrid for 125.5 million euros ($173 million). The firm is bidding against investors including Goldman Sachs Group Inc. for another 1,458 housing units being sold by Madrid’s regional government, according to three people with knowledge of the auction, who asked not to be identified because the information is private.

“Building a business from scratch without a single employee and buying something like $150 million in homes per week requires a learning process,” Anthony Myers, senior managing director of real estate at Blackstone, said at a conference in Barcelona last week. “When we looked at the situation in Spain, we thought we could see something similar, where we could replicate a lot of the systems and technology that we created in the U.S.”

The New York-based firm is seeking to transplant an investment that’s transformed housing in parts of Atlanta, Phoenix and California into one more suited to Spain. Blackstone is competing with foreign and domestic distressed investors that are seeking bulk purchases of low-cost housing units, mainly apartments that are already occupied, in cities where local governments need to sell assets to trim deficits

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A picture of a construction worker in Spain
Spain has seen its first quarterly economic growth since 2011, according to data from the country’s National Statistics agency INE.

The country’s GDP grew 0.1% in the July-to-September period, after contracting for the previous nine quarters.

Its growth confirmed last week’s estimates from the Bank of Spain.

Spain, the euro zone’s fourth-largest economy, has had more success than any other major economy on the Continent in carrying out the export-or-die prescription issued by the European Union, led by Germany, after Europe began to founder in 2008. The idea was that exports, backed by pro-business regulatory changes, would generate the foreign exchange needed to pay down mountainous national debts, while creating factory jobs that could give a lift to falling domestic spending.

Spain’s growing international sales, with exports of goods up by nearly 7% this year, are all the more impressive because even powerhouse Germany has seen recent weakness in sales abroad. The latest figure also beats the average growth during the boom years, before the global financial crisis hit.

Signs of an export-led Spanish turnaround have propelled the Madrid stock market up some 30% since June and prompted luminaries such as Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and Carlos Slim to invest in Spanish ventures.

Spain’s exports of goods and services are up 21% since 2008. As a share of gross domestic product, they have risen to 34% from 26.5%, allowing Spain to leapfrog Italy and France in that measure.

The statistics mean Spain is officially out of recession.

The INE said an increasing number of exports supported the growth, with a boost to the tourist industry from holidaymakers avoiding northern Africa and the Middle East.

Ben May, economist at Capital Economics, said the growth was encouraging and cited business surveys that suggested there “may be more to come in the near term”.

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Morgan Stanley explained that its “strategy advisers have highlighted Spain as one of the potential surprises in 2013, along other peripheral euro country members.”

Having checked assets’ behaviour in November, Morgan Stanley analysts said Tuesday in an investor note that Europe has overpassed the US, with MSC Europe at +2.6 percent versus S&P 500 at +0.6 percent. The bank’s experts remarked that estimates on profits have improved in Europe to a point that suggests it will not lose further ground in the short and medium term.

As for Spain, Morgan Stanley explained that its “strategy advisers have highlighted Spain as one of the potential surprises in 2013, along other peripheral euro country members.” Spain has been upgraded on economy rankings to the second position–only behind Switzerland–, its best marks since the third quarter of 2009.

“We expect premium risk spreads between core euro countries’ sovereign bonds and peripherals’ to keep decreasing, even down to 155 basis points to 75 basis points if the European Central Bank activates the outright market transaction programme,” the report said.

France fell down to the 12 place, while Germany remained among the top five choices for investment.

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Spain is gearing up to offer automatic residency rights to property investors from outside the European Union who pay more than £130,000 for a house.

The Spanish Government hopes the move will bolster its ailing property and construction sectors, currently burdened with a massive over-supply of empty properties, and attract buyers from other second home investment options such as Cyprus and Dubai. But it is also targeting Russian, Chinese and even Australian investors.

The news came in an article published in The Times in which Spanish Trade Minister Jaime Garcia-Legaz said he had proposed the move to other ministries.

Currently Spain issues temporary visas to non-EU overseas nationals allowing them to stay to stay in the country for 90 days. The idea is that the new scheme, details of which are still to be announced, will give property investors automatic residency.

Despite its struggling economy, Spain has recently seen an increase in property sales for the first time in over a year. Last month’s 7 per cent rise is believed to be down to a temporary reduction to 4 per cent of the VAT rate on new homes. As things stand this is due to be increased to 10 per cent in January.

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Daily Mail – 18th October 2012

Sitting on a hill inside Spain’s most exclusive private estate, it is just the sort of mansion fitting for a king… or Russian president.

So, it is no surprise to learn that the president of Russia has apparently acquired the purchase of this £15 million palace project in the heart of Zagaleta estate, near Marbella.

The 4,000m² villa is being built on order for President Putin within metres of homes owned by Rod Stewart and the former mayor of Moscow.


Locals have confirmed the 4,000m² villa is being built on order for President Putin



The villa is being built on the top of a inside Spain’s most exclusive private estate Zagaleta (All properties in Zagaleta available through Metta Estates)


The luxury villa, in the Zagaleta, near Marbella has sunken pools and fountains (All properties in Zagaleta available through Metta Estates)


The area has become especially popular with rich Italians, who have been snapping up properties in the region at a vast rate in the past few years.

 A British construction company boss, who has undertaken jobs in Zagaleta over recent years, revealed that the property had been bought by the Russian leader.

‘He’s been looking in Zagaleta for a year and finally found this project. He has already knocked down the former home and it is now being rebuilt from scratch. It is an amazing project,’ he said.

While difficult to confirm the purchase definitively, the Russian leader has family living on the Costa del Sol and has recently made ‘two short trips’ to the area, it can be revealed.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has family living on the Costa del Sol and has recently made two trips to the area

A high level security consultant, who had helped organise his trips, confirmed: ‘He has a good relationship with Spain and comes here fairly regularly, but security is obviously of high concern. I know he has been here twice on short trips over the last year.’

Developed by the Bolt Property Group, the home was purchased from British computer mogul Alan Sharam.

Local estate agent Robert Braine Managing Director of Metta Estates revealed: ‘I have been told it has been bought by a politician in the Russian Duma, but I haven’t found out who exactly yet and I guess it could easily be President Putin. Metta Estates have sold several in Zagaleta this year to wealthy Russian clients”

‘There has been continual talk of him buying here for the last year. It is certainly an incredible project, but it is a place to get lost in rather than live in, you own the hill, in fact you’re king of Marbella.

‘The retaining wall alone is said to have cost around £4.5 million,’ he added.

Sitting on an 18,000m² plot, the project – one of the largest in Marbella – boasts its own spa and gym, a cinema, piano bar and two swimming pools.

The epitome of extravagance, it has 10 bedrooms with spectacular views towards Gibraltar, North Africa and inland to the Serrania de Ronda.

Conveniently, it counts its own heli-pad and there are now direct flights to Moscow from nearby Malaga airport to make life easier for its new Russian owner.

The landscaped gardens have sunken pools and fountains and there is a 10-car  garage, as well as parking space for 22 friends.

The development, which has 24-hour high security, already counts numerous politicians and multimillionaire business men.

Once owned by arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi, the cheapest homes start at £3 million and the membership fee for the golf club and clubhouse alone cost over £80,000 a year.


The property is one of the largest in Marbella and has its own spa and gym, a cinema, piano bar and two swimming pools



The 10-bedroom villa has breathtaking views towards Gibraltar, North Africa and inland to the Serrania de Ronda


(All properties in Zagaleta available through Metta Estates)