How Will Santander Get Rid Of Popular’s RE Assets?

13 June 2017 – Expansión

Double approach / The bank will put some large portfolios on the market to sell them to opportunistic funds and will also transfer some of the assets to Metrovacesa, in which Santander is the majority shareholder. 

Last year, the real estate nightmare stopped causing headaches for Santander. The risk accounted for just 2% of the balance sheet of its Spanish subsidiary (…). Between 2012 and March 2017, its volume of damaged assets fell by 60% in net terms, according to its own numbers.

However, the arrival of a block of RE exposures worth €36,800 million from Popular will force its managers to roll their sleeves up once again. Nevertheless, this is happening at a point in the real estate cycle that, a priori, is much more favourable.

Santander’s intention is to cut Popular’s toxic assets in half within a year and a half, with the aim of reducing the balance to an immaterial amount within three years.

Santander will go to the market over the next few months to sell significant batches of assets to opportunistic funds that are dedicated to this business. These divestments tend to be made at a loss because the funds pay low prices. Santander starred in one of the fifteen large operations closed in 2016, with its sale of a portfolio to Grove and Lindorff. (…).

Popular did not have this solution available to it because of the low provisioning level that it had covering these assets. As a result, any such operation would have made the losses in its income statement even worse. In fact, during the whole crisis, Popular only made public two transactions, which together amounted to €621 million. The only channel that it could afford to use was retail.

Digestion

By contrast, Santander can afford to allow these divestments. One of the objectives of the €7,000 million macro-capital increase that it is going to undertake is precisely to increase the level of provisions for Popular from 45% to 67%. The average level in the sector stands at 52%. In the case of non-performing loans, the coverage will jump from 55% to 75%.

These future sales will lead to an intensification of this market, which last year moved €15,600 million, according to data compiled by KPMG. Since the start of the crisis, total divestments through this channel amount to almost €100,000 million.

Metrovacesa

Santander has another door open for providing a rapid exit to Popular’s real estate assets and its called Metrovacesa. Santander is the property developer’s largest shareholder, with 72% of the capital, in addition to Popular’s stake.

Ana Botín’s team already used this channel last year to transfer risks and it is likely that it will use it again with Popular, especially for its land. Santander also owns a stake in the Socimi Testa Residencial, which is scheduled to debut on the stock market in 2018. That company owns 8,064 rental homes, which could be supplemented with the buildings owned Popular that are most susceptible to rent. (…)

One of the first decisions taken by Ana Botín following the purchase of Popular has been to appoint Javier García Carranza, the Head of Santander’s Real Estate Restructuring area, to Popular’s new Board of Directors.

After several years of high provisions to cover the real estate assets, the large entities consider that the coverage level is now sufficient. The vast majority of the current costs are maintenance related. In other words, they stem from the payment of municipal taxes, neighbourhood costs, etc. (…).

Original story: Expansión (by R.Lander and R.Ruiz)

Translation: Carmel Drake

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