"Galicia has great potential and you have to know how to sell it to investors"
First of all, what function do they perform in Spain? How long have you been working with European entrepreneurs in the country?
We help European investors to find investment opportunities in Spain to develop hotel projects and industries. We have been offering financial information in French for fifteen years on opportunities and contacts in each Spanish region. For twelve years, we have also developed a unique networking tool in Spain, cross-sectoral b2b events in various capitals, called "Womms" (acronym for Word of Mouth Marketing), which allow us to establish strong contacts in a city. The services offered by OPEA Partners are: data, offmarket products and influential contacts for the investor.
What types of investments are you looking for here?
Most of the time they are repositioning products. They like to add value, reposition the products in a higher category or simply in another activity different from the initial one.
Specifically, in the case of hotels, they look for old buildings or old factories. For example, they can look at old hotels never refurbished to put in a good capex and go up a star. The one who buys comes with his commercial strength.
In the case of industries, lately, industrial warehouses are being sought near cities to transform into what we call last-mile logistics, that is, a "last-mile" logistics point. Spaces between 20,000 and 100,000 square meters less than 20 kilometers from the city center.
In this search, what can Galicia contribute?
Galicia has seen the birth of powerful industries in fashion and fishing. So far, it is not the first tourist destination, but we believe very much that it is going to become an international tourist power. First, because it has many things to reveal; second, because there is an ambitious plan for infrastructure; and third, because the best seafood in southern Europe is eaten (smiles). The potential that Galicia offers is great, very great, so you have to know how to sell it to foreigners. Personally, since I have been in Spain, twenty-two years ago, every time I go to Galicia I am shocked by the beauty of its nature and its authentic corners. But nobody talks to me about that in Madrid and less in France. Airports have to open up to other Europeans. In logistics, this land also has a lot to say.
There are very few products left to invest in in Madrid or Barcelona. On the contrary, Galicia offers a wide range of products. I think the authorities have understood this and that is why the administrative procedures (licenses ...) will be made more flexible. An investor who buys a building to make a hotel, in addition to investing millions of euros in the city, is creating jobs. It is not an online game. You have to make your job easier.
Is there already a proposal or intention of an investor to reach our community?
We have mandates signed with a European hotel group to open hotels in Vigo, Santiago and Gijón. They are looking for urban buildings to convert into a hotel, or hotels to reposition, of at least 2,500 square meters to make at least sixty rooms. Later, another investor from London asked us for offices and logistics parks. To these are added interests in coworking, student residences and residential (built to trent). Many French and British who have made purchases in Madrid and Barcelona already look to Galicia. In fact, we will soon see a wave of luxury hotels open ... and also urban hotels.
What is Opea Partners' way of working with them? How do you get that trust that they place in you?
First we have to "tie" the product we present. That is, to make sure that it is well for sale, we ask for the minimum information and, above all, what we do, because it is what we sell to the investor, we sit down with the owners.
Second, we make sure that the product is not onmarket. We observe that no one is proposing it for sale, both on portals and on the deep web, where we look to see if there is any missing pdf of this product. All this for a very simple reason, we also protect the owner.
We work with great discretion. For example, my teams do not produce pdf documents, because once it circulates on the web, like the big brokers do, you burn the product and you don't control who is going to see it.
How do you put the investor in contact with the owner?
Once the product and the relationship with its owner have been secured, the investor has to make us a LOI (Letter Of Interest) indicating whether he likes the product and an approximate price. After receiving this pre-offer, we meet the owner and the investor for a visit to the product and establish a first contact. This phase is crucial. It doesn't seem like it, but it's just as important as having figures that add up. If the investor does not trust the owner or the situation, or vice versa, the process may slow down. The human chemistry between the two has to work and trust has to be reciprocal. In a product, many times, the owner is giving thirty years of family history, of sacrifices, of reputation in the city and you have to take great care of this parameter. A token is not sold, history is sold as well.
What is the 'offmarket' and why is it so important?
The offmarket is vital because it means that nobody has it and that offers two virtues: the product has not been the object of speculation, which would have meant an increase in price; and guarantees the investor that he will not waste time studying it. If it is not, it means that you can receive an offer at any time and, even if you have exclusivity, you will then receive more curious than real buyers. In addition, the investor thinks that a product on the market that nobody buys has something wrong with it.
They carry out both international and local events. What do you offer attendees in them?
Products, contacts and information. To each event we informally invite top executives from a city (between 100 and 250 people) to come and network. Through these people, we have access to good information and a lot of local product and the investor likes it. We do not ask for a fee to come, but we do filter. We have done more than 250 events in total in the last twelve years, most of them in embassies, luxury hotels or business clubs; the last of them at the Genova Financial Club in Madrid. In each one, the theme may vary, but the objective and the profiles are the same.
What do entrepreneurs get in b2b meetings?
They make contacts themselves. In the end, every day, each executive is a prisoner of his own sector or company. It is a socio-labor problem. Nor is it your role to organize an event that is not in your sector. Thus, in the end, there is little probability of meeting top executives from other sectors. And there comes "Womms".
We do offmarket events for top executives of any sector. I say offmarket because we don't advertise, we don't even have a facebook page or flyers (people request registration in a form at womms.com), and most importantly, we don't publish the list of participants anywhere. Each one comes anonymously and the place of the event is sent by SMS three days before. Word of mouth does its job.
The second problem that we solve with these informal events is that the executives meet in an atypical, informal and pleasant environment. This subtlety breaks the blockage of the first contact, key in businesses where you have little time.
Lastly, what future events do you have in mind?
One in A Coruña, before this summer, and then others in Vigo and Gijón, where we can accompany investors.
We are also preparing for March 2021 the first Spanish Real Estate Congress in Paris, "Salon Oui Inmo" (ouiinmo.com). There, we will bring together investors who want to invest in real estate or infrastructure projects in Spain, with a nightly networking event.
Original article in spanish in El Correo Gallego