Benson Elliot extends Spanish investment programme with regional shopping centre acquisition

Benson Elliot, the UK-based private equity real estate fund manager, announces the acquisition of the Imaginalia shopping centre in Albacete, Spain from funds managed by AXA Real Estate.

Benson Elliot is planning a major capital expenditure programme to transform the c. 45,000 sqm shopping centre, tapping into increasing consumer demand as Spain accelerates its recovery from recession. Completed in 2006 by Spanish developer Procom, Imaginalia benefits from limited local competition. The centre is currently 82% occupied by a mix of 33 tenants, with major tenants including Alcampo (hypermarket), Media Markt (consumer electronics), Yelmo (cinema) and Toys R Us (toys). The centre provides surface and underground parking for 2,100 cars.

Albacete, in the autonomous community of Castilla-La-Mancha, is a regionally dominant city with a diversified economy and a growing population of 172,000. It lies halfway between Madrid and the Valencia/Alicante coast. Albacete is seeing population and economic growth on the back of Spain’s economic recovery. In its latest country report on Spain, the International Monetary Fund observed that the Spanish economy had “turned the corner” and, of particular relevance to Imaginalia, that “private consumption is rebounding”.

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. We are encouraged by the enduring commitment Imaginalia’s key tenants have shown to the centre through a tough economic environment.”

Benson Elliot has a strong in-house retail team, who will oversee the re-configuration and re-positioning of Imaginalia. We expect to make Imaginalia a more vibrant retail destination, in part by enhancing the leisure offer. Initial conversations with potential occupiers have given us confidence that there is significant demand amongst retailers to be present in a rejuvinated Imaginalia.”

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, with business outsourcing solutions provider ADP and leading German consumer products company Henkel taking overall occupancy in the scheme to 64%.

International real estate consultant Cushman & Wakefield acted as advisers to Axa Real Estate.

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