Spain puts property on block in bid to replenish its coffers
The Spanish government has approved a plan to sell a quarter of its state-owned properties in an attempt to raise hundreds of millions and boost the government's empty coffers.
Some 15,000 properties, from office buildings to agricultural land, will be put up for sale over the next seven years.
The measure is the latest in a series of moves to bring Spain's budget deficit to within the EU target of 3 per cent by 2016 from 7.1 per cent of GDP last year.
Spain's government has introduced a number of unpopular austerity measures as the nation struggles with its sixth quarter of negative growth and an unemployment rate of nearly 27 per cent.
A parliamentary commission has drawn up an extensive list of assets that will be sold to private investors.
They include disused army barracks, an airfield on the island of Minorca, a military shooting range and thousands of office buildings.
The government said the portfolio would include about 10 buildings, considered unique, that it hoped would be snapped up by potential investors.
Among those is a mansion on Madrid's central avenue, the Paseo de la Castellana, that used to house the secretary of state for security, and a country estate in Andalusia comprising 14,164 hectares of natural parkland planted with cork trees.
Mariano Rajoy's conservative government announced plans last year to set up a commission to draw up an inventory of all state-owned property and identify those that could be sold.
The first properties to go under the hammer include the former headquarters of RTVE, Spain's state television and radio channel in Madrid and Galicia, and a disused army barracks in Seville.
"There will be some real gems in the portfolio, I am sure, but also a lot of dross," said Mark Stucklin, founder of Spanish Property Insight, an independent website.
"Those properties that will be sought after are those of historical or architectural interest in the most sought-after areas of cities. But it will boil down to the price. There will always be interest in good real estate by foreign investors if it is sold at a bargain."
The government is yet to release the full portfolio of properties for sale and has not said how much money it hopes to raise.
Much of the rural property that will be put on the market will be offered with the opportunity for development to create local jobs.
La Almoraima, a country estate in the Natural Park of Alcornocales, which has been managed by the ministry of environment since 1983, is being sold with the option to develop a resort with two golf courses and a five-star hotel.
"We will wait for a reasonable offer - we are not going to sell it off for peanuts," a spokesman said.
"Our best hope is that we can generate foreign interest as there are few in Spain right now who could afford it."