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Berggruen and partners betting 1 billion euros on distressed Portuguese assets

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 17 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 17 April, 2013, 5:31am

German-American billionaire Nicolas Berggruen and two Portuguese partners plan to spend as much as €1 billion (HK$10 billion) on real estate in the country, though they're not expecting to make a quick return.

Berggruen, Jose Luis Pinto Basto and Miguel Pais do Amaral will target assets such as office buildings, hotels and parking lots, Pinto Basto said. The properties may take as long as 10 years to sell at a profit, he said.

"We're not in a hurry," said Pinto Basto. "The thing about Nicolas is that he's a marathon runner, not a sprinter."

Prices for the best Portuguese properties should stabilise this year after falling as much as 15 per cent last year, according to Walter Fabrega, broker Jones Lang LaSalle's local head of capital markets. The government forecasts the economy will grow in 2014 for the first time in four years.

The partners are focusing on deals of €200 million to €300 million, said Pinto Basto. "The goal is to focus on indebted assets, pay off some of the debt and turn around these businesses," he said.

Portuguese banks are among those looking to sell assets.

Berggruen wasn't immediately available for comment.

Tim Seconde, associate director of capital markets at property broker CBRE Group in Portugal, said investment levels in the country's commercial real estate "hit rock bottom" last year as investors watched the euro-zone crisis unfold and speculation about countries exiting the currency increased.

"So far in 2013, we have seen doubts continue. However, there has been a notable increase in interest from new investors and some of them will be able to take advantage of the lack of competition and highly readjusted pricing," Seconde said.

Portuguese real estate investment declined by 38 per cent in 2012 to €125 million.