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Europe’s largest real estate company is in the works

Europe’s largest real estate company is in the works

If successful, the newly born behemoth would own 550,000 apartments in Europe, with 160,000 in Berlin alone

Real-estate company Vonovia is planning its third merger attempt with Deutsche Wohnen, and this time they are offering more money. If the deal goes through, the behemoth that will emerge will become the largest real estate group in Europe.

Both companies made the announcement last Sunday, with Vonovia offering 19 billion euros for the take-over. This means that Deutsche Wohnen’s shareholders are set to receive 53 euros per share, adding up to one euro per share more than their last offer.

Third time is the charm?

Vonovia's previous attempt was made at the end of July, however, too few Deutsche Wohnen shareholders accepted the offer. The buyer was able to secure only around 47% of the shares, just 3% shy from their benchmark.

If the merger is to go through, the newly born enterprise would own 550,000 apartments in Europe, with 160,000 in Berlin alone.

As part of the merger plan and in an effort to appease BaFin, Germany’s financial regulator, the two groups offered the state of Berlin to limit rent increases until 2026, to build new apartments and to sell existing ones to the state. This involves around 20,000 residential units.

It should become clear by the end of September whether the merger with Deutsche Wohnen will come through.

The merger may be caused by a referendum on expropriating Deutsche Wohnen

Meanwhile, the citizen's initiative Deutsche Wohnen & Co. Enteignen (Expropriate Deutsche Wohnen and Co.) led a successful campaign to put the question of whether the large real-estate firm should be expropriated to a referendum in Berlin. The vote will happen in September, during Germany’s super election (election for the 20th Bundestag and state elections in Berlin and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania). 

 Activists from Expropriate Deutsche Wohnen and Co. are campaigning hard across Berlin.

The referendum concerns expropriating the property of landlords who own more than 3,000 apartments. The group sees them as a major contributor to Berlin’s current housing shortage.

According to the group pushing for the referendum, the Deutsche Wohnen is infamous for providing miserable living conditions for their tenants, such as dysfunctional heating, in order to force them to eventually leave their flats. Once this happens they can renovate and upsell them, pursuing a policy of ever-rising rents.

Expropriate Deutsche Wohnen (not to be confused with Deutsche Wohnen and Co.) have expressed a very critical view of Vonovia as well. They claimed that the company repeatedly removed maintenance services from rental properties for socially vulnerable people in order to save money.

While the merger taunts Berlin’s tenant movement, it also offers politicians a non-controversial compromise in the form of 20,000 apartments. This, however, is miles away from what the almost 400,000 signatories in the petition for the referendum are calling for.

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