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The Real Estate World Cup: The Biggest Beasts Of The Tournament Favorites

The World Cup has rolled around again, and what better way to celebrate than taking a quick look at the top (or at least, most renowned) real estate owner-developer-players in the countries deemed most likely to bring home the trophy?

These eight nations were picked because, as of the opening day of the World Cup, their teams are the favourites to win, according to Oddsmaker, a site that aggregates betting odds from around the world. 

Brazil: Grupo Tenco

Malls might be a contracting proposition in the United States, but in Brazil, they represent a growth industry. Consumer spending is on the rise in Brazil but shopping center development hasn't kept pace.

Grupo Tenco, which develops, manages and operates shopping centers in Brazil, has been on the cusp of that growth. Based in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, the company was founded in 1988 and currently has 20 properties, mostly in midsize, previously under-retailed cities in the interior of the country.

In 2013, Grupp Tenco partnered with Blackstone's Tactical Opportunities division for that investor's first foray into the Brazilian property market, to develop shopping centers in the country. 

Germany: Vonovia SE

Vonovia SE is Germany's largest residential property company, established in a 2015 merger of Deutsche Annington and Gagfah. The company owns 353,000 units throughout Germany, with about 1 million residents, and in the first quarter, the company began work on 550 new apartments in Germany. 

Vonovia is on a growth trajectory outside of Germany. In March, it acquired a majority stake in the Austrian company BUWOG, including 49,000 apartments.

Vonovia now intends to enter the Swedish market for the first time, recently having made an offer for the Swedish residential property company Victoria Park AB, outbidding Starwood Capital. Victoria Park owns about 14,000 units in Stockholm, Gothenborg and Malmo.

Spain: Merlin Properties

Merlin Properties did not exist as recently as four years ago, but after raising €1.25B ($1.7B) in an initial public offering it has not looked back, riding the resurgence of the previously beleagured Spanish property market to become the biggest private commercial real estate owner in Spain with a portfolio valued just shy of €10B.

Merlin's holdings are core and core plus office, retail and logistics, mainly in Spain and to a lesser extent in Portugal. They include 139 office buildings, 909 high street retail properties, 18 shopping centers, 41 warehouses and three hotels. 

In April, Merlin completed the acquisition of the 110K SF ZEN Tower, expanded its footprint in the Lisbon office market to over 750K SF, making it one of the top three players in that market.

France: Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield

Westfield Shopping Centre, Stratford, London

Unibail-Rodamco, France's — and indeed Europe's — largest property firm, knows how to make a splash. Last month, it completed its $16B takeover of the U.S. and European business of Australian real estate company Westfield, thereby creating the world's largest mall owner.

As of this month, the company is Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield. The combined entity owns and operates 102 shopping centers in 13 countries, 56 of which are flagships in the cities of Europe and in the United States.

Argentina: IRSA Inversiones y Representaciones 

Since its founding in 1943, IRSA Inversiones y Representaciones SA has endured the ups and downs of the Argentine economy to become Argentina's largest publicly traded real estate company. Its portfolio includes 16 shopping malls in Argentina, seven of which are in Buenos Aires, 3.5M SF of office space and interests in three hotels.

The company also owns a third of Banco Hipotecario, one of the leading financial institutions in Argentina, 49% of Condor Hospitality Trust in the United States (formerly known as Supertel Hospitality), and indirectly a majority stake in the Israeli company IDB Development Corp.

Belgium: AG Real Estate

AG Real Estate, the real estate arm of the AG Insurance, is the biggest property group in Belgium. The Brussels-based company isn't a specialist, investing and developing investor office buildings, shopping centers, residential properties, senior housing, self-storage and garages — 23.6M SF all together, with 8.6M SF under development.

The company is expanding into various parts of the EU. Last month, for instance, it inked a deal to acquire seven nursing homes in Germany, bringing its total portfolio in that property type in that country to 23 assets.

England: Landsec

Landsec is the biggest listed real estate company in the U.K., with about 24M SF of offices, retail and other properties in London and the rest of the country. In London, its buildings include the iconic Piccadilly Lights and developments such as The Zig Zag Building.

For now at least, Brexit has caused the company to say it expects “subdued” real estate markets ahead of the exit from the EU. In May, Landsec reported its first annual loss since the financial crisis.

Even so, the company is forging ahead with various developments. Recently, Landsec began work on Deutsche Bank's new HQ in the City of London, which is pre-leased, and started the Nova building in Victoria and completed a shopping center in Oxford. It has a potential 800K SF of development that it hasn't pulled the trigger on yet.

Portugal: Sonae Sierra

Sonae Sierra, headquartered in Maia, Portugal, owns 46 shopping centers in Europe and South America totaling more than 20M SF. The company, which is half owned by Sonae SGPS (Portugal) and half by Grosvenor Group Limited (U.K.), went through the wringer during the global financial crisis, but has bounced back with gusto.

Now that its occupancies are high and profitability has returned, Sonae Sierra also has an active development pipeline once more. That includes new shopping centers in Colombia, Spain and Morocco, shopping districts in Germany and Italy, and property expansions in Portugal.