Real Estate in Germany Growing as Wave of Mergers and Acquisitions Rise

German real estate is seeing a wave of mergers and acquisitions rise with low interest rates offering investors an open window for growth.

Mergers and acquisitions are on the rise in Germany’s real estate segment as industry players look to capitalize on low interest rates and a virtual standstill in property prices. Unlike neighboring countries who are experiencing unsteady growth rates. In a report by Gulf News, Vonivia, the top dog of real estate joined the fray and revealed plans of offering €14 billion or $16 billion for its nemesis Deutsche Wohnen after its failed bid to acquire LEG Immobilien.

Spain Remains Top European Property Investment Target, Germany Second

According to Knight Frank, active investors see Spain as the top investment target in Europe, with Germany following close behind in 2015.

Knight Frank’s recent European poll showed 27% of over 150 investors identified Spain as their preferred investment target for next year, clearly indicating the strength of its recent recovery with values still well below their previous peak.

Humphrey White, Head of Capital Markets at Knight Frank Spain, comments “The fundamental rationale behind investing in Spain is even stronger than this time last year. Prime CBD office rents have risen by 20% over the past 12 months, but remain nearly 40% below the 2008 peak, and both footfall and sales have been increasing in dominant shopping centres for six consecutive quarters.”

Over a quarter (25.4%) of attendees chose Germany as their preferred target.  Results mirror the buoyant investment activity seen in the country, with a total of €30 billion invested in property during H1 2015, an increase of 35% compared to H1 2014.

Joachim von Radecke, Head of German Desk at Knight Frank in London, comments “The increase is driven by the rising flow of foreign capital into the country and the 50% increase of domestic investor activity.  Foreign investors’ share of the German market continues to grow, and now accounts for almost 60% of all transactions in H1 2015.

“We saw the usual trend towards the “big five” markets – Berlin, Frankfurt, Munich, Hamburg and Düsseldorf, with 78% of total office transactions recorded in these cities.”

The UK again featured strongly in this year’s poll, attracting 17.4% of the votes, on the back of the continuing recovery which has now extended to the UK regions.

Chris Bell, Managing Director of Europe at Knight Frank, comments, “The UK is well ahead of the rest of Europe in terms of the property cycle and has already seen significant yield compression.  However, it is encouraging that rental growth is beginning to re-emerge more widely across Europe, helped by the strengthening of occupier demand and the steadily falling availability of good quality space exacerbated by the lack of development over the preceding recessionary years.”

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Apartment Construction Market Thrives in Berlin

The BUWOG Group, a German-Austrian residential property developer, recently held a topping-out ceremony for its new Uferkrone apartment community in Berlin-Köpenick.

The project comprises a mix of 198 new residential units across 12 buildings located just minutes from Köpenick’s historic old town center at the confluence of rivers Dahme and Spree.

The new community, built on a site of about 207,000 square feet (19,200 square meters), will offer living concepts that cater to a variety of lifestyles—from house-in-house concepts perfect for families, to garden apartments, units with a view of the river Spree, and penthouse apartments. Upon completion, all of these buildings will meet the energy standard KfW 70.

Construction on the project’s initial phase will be complete by next spring. So far, about 65 percent of the units included in the first batch are under contract. The new two- to five-room apartments range from about 538 square feet (50 square meters) to more than 2,150 square feet (200 square meters). Purchase prices average about $371 per square foot (or 3,600 euros per square meter). As for the second phase of construction, more than a third of the apartments have already been sold or reserved.

“With ‘Uferkrone,’ new apartments are being created that the city of Berlin needs. The district of Treptow-Köpenick is a great example of Berlin’s impressive growth, offers an ideal infrastructure and a very high quality of life,” said Alexander Happ, head of Development Germany at the BUWOG Group.

BUWOG Group holds about 5,000 existing apartments in Berlin. The company is currently building several other projects in the capital city. Its total development pipeline here comprises approximately 1,700 residential units, with an investment volume of around $580 million (EUR 530 million). Meanwhile, three other projects in Pankow and Lichtenberg are on the drawing board.

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The Secrets of Soho House Berlin: Lessons in Colorful Real Estate

In the five years since its 2010 opening, Berlin’s iteration of Soho House has become a major Central European roadhouse. The signature loungy-luxe details honed by Soho House founder Nick Jones, 52, since he opened his first Soho House in 1995—in Berlin’s case, the tidy little roof pool, the fireplace with its art-directed logs, the Vegas-style couches and day beds for extra-louche group lounging—all conspire mischievously to imply that the authorities, such as your momma, your significant other, or, in a celebrity’s case, a howling pack of street-dog paparazzi would have a really hard time finding you enjoying the place with whomever you choose.

This is a very profitable and fantastically marketable lodging idea. Although the traditions of it hark back to the 12th century Knights Templar and the London guilds and clubs, its authors in the late 20th century in the U.S. are the disco-magnate-turned-hotelier Ian Schrager (Morgans) and the dater-of-Uma-Thurman Andre Balasz (The Mercer, The Standard). In this market, Mr. Jones, of the UK, is a relative latecomer. (read more here…)

IREIT Global buys Berlin property for S$217.7m; undertakes rights issue to fund deal

Singapore-listed IREIT Global Tuesday said that it had reached a deal to acquire a property in Berlin for 144.2 million euros (S$217.7 million), marking its first acquisition since its initial public offering.

The property is located in the district of Lichtenberg, and the company said this place had been witnessing a strong growth of both commercial office development and occupancy demand.

The property comprises two fully connected building sections of 8 storeys and 13 storeys, respectively, the company said in a statement.

It is located six kilometres east of Berlin’s city centre and near the Media Spree area, which is popular with internet, media and technology companies.

IREIT said it was was attracted to this property due to the strong principal tenant – Deutsche Rentenversicherung Bund –  a federal pension fund and the largest of the 16 federal pension institutions in Germany, and the opportunity for rental and value growth in this increasingly popular location. The principal tenant DRB occupies 98.8% of this property’s total lettable area on a lease expiring in June 2024 and contributes 99.6% to its gross rental income.

Choo Boon Poh, Chief Financial Officer of IREIT said, “As part of our strategy, we intend to fund the acquisition through a mix of equity and debt. IREIT has announced a rights issue to raise gross proceeds of approximately S$88.7 million. The balance of the funding for the acquisition will be through a bank loan facility, from which it intends to draw down a gross amount of approximately €102.0 million.”

With this acquisition, IREIT’s total portfolio value will increase significantly to €438.0 million (S$661.4 million) from €290.6 million (S$438.8 million).

Regarding its renounceable rights issue, it will offer 189.6 million new units at 46.8 cents, and shareholders will be entitled to subscribe to 45 rights shares for each 100 shares held.

Tong Jinquan, Lim Chap Huat and IREIT Global Management who own a total of about 76.5% of the existing units have demonstrated their commitments by subscribing to their allotment of rights units, the company said.

The REIT closed 0.5 cent higher at 80.5 cents on Monday.

As of 31 March 2015, IREIT Global’s portfolio comprises four freehold properties in Germany valued at approximately €290.6 million (S$438.8 milion). The four properties are located in the key German cities of Bonn, Darmstadt, Münster and Munich with net lettable area of about 121,506 sqm and 2,945 car park spaces.

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Berlin roars up ‘best city’ rankings

Hamburg, Munich and Berlin all appeared in the 25 most liveable places on the planet in elite magazine Monocle’s 2015 rankings. Berlin shot further up the charts for the second year running.

While Hamburg and Munich slipped back one place each to 21 and 9 respectively, Berlin once again rocketed up the charts to come in as the 3rd most liveable city in the world.

But the strong German showing put it in a class with Japan as the only two countries to have three cities in the top 25 – considerably better than the 0 scored by the United Kingdom and the one entry at the bottom of the rankings for the United States.

Monocle’s annual Quality of Life survey ranks cities around the globe according to factors including climate, architecture, crime rate, environmental issues, food and drink, business and design.

While some of the data is scientific, other measures are more subjective and the magazine’s editor in chief Tyler Brûlé said on Thursday the judges employed a change in the metrics in 2015 which included how much influence the state has over everyday life in different countries.

“We’ve given extra marks to cities that limit their nannying and we’ve tried to give value to places where there’s something else we know is vital: freedom, grit, independence, a joy with life,” he was quoted as saying by the website Skift.

“We’re frustrated with city councils that are too quick to say no, places where parents never let their children run free and capitals that seem opposed to the odd late night out.”

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Colossal Nazi holiday camp converted to luxury seaside apartments

With estate agents waxing lyrical about the “smell of the sea, the scent of pines and panoramic views of nature” you could almost be forgiven for forgetting the sinister past of the luxury Baltic seaside apartments at New Prora, which were purpose built for 20,000 members of Adolf Hitler’s Aryan “master race”.

Comprising a single and monstrous five-storey concrete housing block stretching almost three miles along the sand dune and pine-studded coast of the east German island of Rügen, the former Prora holiday camp is one of the longest buildings in Europe. It was designed as the Nazis’ answer to Butlin’s.

Now, 76 years after it was built,  the first full-time tenants are moving in to the so-called “Colossus of Rügen”. After decades of inaction and shame about its Nazi past, the complex is being gradually turned into luxury flats. Fifty-seven have been sold, the lowest priced costing €176,000 for  a small three-room apartment.

The knowledge that the site of his flat was meant to provide “quality time” for the German masses under the Nazi “Strength Through Joy”  recreation programme did not seem to worry its new owner Roland Glöckner.

“It may sound peculiar, but it was love at first sight,” said the 51-year-old Berlin advertising executive after moving in to his 60sq metre flat.

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The 5 best coffee shops in Berlin

Every city has a personality, but few European cities are as unique and iconic as Berlin.

The German capital is the perfect mix of regal architecture and rough urban streetscapes, beautiful laneways and grungy concrete, vintage shops and cutting-edge modern spaces.

Berlin is wonderfully rich in history and culture, and its coffee scene reflects this richness.

1. Oliv

Cafe Oliv Facebook/Oliv

On a pretty street corner in the fashionable district of Mitte, Oliv has a warm, welcoming feel and some of the best coffee in town.

Their homemade teas are also wondrous: order a mint tea and you’ll receive a sprig of fresh, leafy peppermint in a tall glass. Plus their food is wholesome and simple; think autumnal vegetable salad and crispy hot croissants.

2. Godshot

Godshot coffeeFacebook/Godshot

Berlin’s modern cafe scene is booming and Godshot is one of the main forerunners. The space is sleek, the baristas are experts and the beans are perfect. An ideal spot to recharge one afternoon.

Plus names don’t get any cooler than this; perhaps we should start calling espresso shots “godshots” from now on…………

Checkpoint Charlie Sites Said to Be Sold to Berlin Developer

The last development sites at Checkpoint Charlie, the most famous border crossing between former East and West Berlin, are being sold after years of laying fallow, three people with knowledge of the deal said.

Trockland Management GmbH, a local developer agreed to buy loans on the two plots in the city center from Irish bad bank National Asset Management Agency, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the sale is private. Trockland will pay about 85 million euros ($95 million) and plans to build mostly homes, in addition to stores and a hotel, two of the people said.

A representative for Trockland declined to comment. A spokesman for NAMA didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Checkpoint Charlie was a border crossing in West Berlin controlled by the western Allies — the U.S., U.K., and France – – until the opening of the Berlin Wall. Since German reunification, the site has become a tourist attraction where hawkers in G.I. costumes charge for photos and souvenir shops sell fake Berlin Wall fragments. Tenants in the area include Starbucks Corp., a Michelin-starred restaurant, and a sausage museum.

The plots, one on either side of upscale shopping street Friedrichstrasse, have a total of 9,100 square meters (98,000 square feet), according to to BNP Paribas Real Estate, the broker that marketed the properties.

Dublin-based Cannon Kirk bought rights to develop the land in 2007, and during the financial crisis, Ireland’s bad bank National Asset Management Agency took over the debt, BNP said in September.

A spokeswoman for BNP declined to comment.

The area abuts two of Berlin’s most expensive neighborhoods: Mitte and Kreuzberg. Twenty-six years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the little remaining wasteland that once separated East from West is still prized by investors because it’s centrally located.

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German property über alles

Is your home your castle or just the place where you live? The British are well known for being a nation of beloved homeowners, but that aspiration rarely comes without chalking up a spot of personal debt in the process.

Embarking on a hefty mortgage for the best part of a person’s working life is likely to cause most people a sleepless night or two. Germans tend to be significantly less focused on the home-ownership goal and are much happier to rent.

According to our research, Germany has an owner-occupation rate of just 44 per cent – the lowest ratio in Europe, after Switzerland. The German residential sector is heavily regulated, meaning that rents are more affordable in comparison to other European countries; in general, housing costs, including heating, represent only 20 per cent to 23 per cent of net household income. Demand is high for rental properties and this is providing good opportunities for investors. Here are a few reasons why we like this sector.

In comparison to other countries, German house prices have shown the lowest levels of growth and volatility over the last 20 years. Although there has been sharp growth in the past three years, this follows a long period where prices were extremely stable. German house prices are currently only 6 per cent higher than they were in 1994, in comparison to the UK where they are three times higher. As a result, good investment opportunities are still relatively easy to find.

Germany has a mature population and it continues to grow. Population growth has accelerated in recent years – with net migration of 400,000 people in 2013 alone – as strong economic growth has encouraged immigration from other parts of Europe. At the same time, the German population is becoming increasingly urbanised, with the major cities growing much faster than the national average. Berlin, for example, has had positive net migration of 200,000 people (100,000 households) since 2005, while only 40,000 new homes have been built over that period.

German households have benefited from the country’s strong economic position: unemployment was just 6.3 per cent in October 2014 and the workforce is at an all-time high. Net salaries have been growing as a result. Attitudes towards debt, meanwhile, remain very conservative. German households have some of the lowest debt levels in Europe at just 160 per cent of gross domestic product – the UK is 204 per cent, the Netherlands is 252 per cent and Sweden is 295 per cent. And while Germans are not keen on taking on big mortgages, they also have much more limited access to finance. The prevalence of loans available to low-income families or high loan-to-value mortgages remains limited, and buy-to-let levels are negligible in comparison to the UK, for example. We believe that these limitations have helped prevent the strong speculative appreciation in prices that we have seen in other countries.

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