30 December 2016 – Expansión
Accounting circular / The Ministry of Finance has softened its demands on Sareb. In exchange, the bad bank’s owners, namely, the State and Spain’s largest banks, will not receive anything for their investments in the bad bank, for at least the next few years.
The Ministry of Finance has softened the situation facing the shareholders of Sareb (the most important of which is the State, through the Frob), by not forcing it to recognise latent losses in its income statement, like it has been obliged to do until now. In exchange, the Ministry has shut down the possibility that these shareholders will receive any results from their investment, even if the company does manage to generate profits at some point.
The harsh situation created by the accounting circular that the Bank of Spain designed for Sareb has barely lasted a year. According to that legislation, Sareb was obliged, within a period of two years, to reappraise all of the assets on its balance sheet (which proceeded from the real estate portfolios of the former savings banks that received public aid) and recognise the latent losses in the income statement each year, given that the price at which it bought those assets was significantly higher than their market prices.
The reality of all of this was seen last year when, in order to avoid near bankruptcy, the bad bank reduced its capital to zero and converted a substantial part of its subordinated debt (€2,171 million) into capital, to offset some of the losses for the year and restore the equity balance. Sareb recognised provisions amounting to €3,900 million in 2015 and recorded capital of €953 million (2% of the balance sheet) and subordinated debt of €1,429 million.
It was expected that something similar would happen this year, although with a less intense effect, given that most of the assets were reappraised in 2015, and that the capital balance would again be reduced and more subordinated debt would be converted into capital.
But to avoid this, the Ministry of Finance has made two significant changes. The first is that Sareb must continue valuing its assets at market prices, but if those values result in the creation of latent losses, then rather than recognise them in the income statement, they should be recorded in the equity statement, whereby reducing the company’s share capital. In parallel, and to avoid the company having to file for insolvency due to an excessive reduction of its capital, Sareb may also benefit from the exception afforded to real estate companies at the height of the crisis, which exempted them from having to comply with a certain relationship between the value of their assets and their own funds. (…).
In exchange for these concessions, which will undoubtedly give Sareb some much needed breathing room, the new legislation from the Ministry of Finance establishes two conditions. The first is that when an asset is sold for below its acquisition price, the real loss must be recognised in the income statement; and the second is that if Sareb generates profits in the future, then whilst the equity account exists in which the latent losses are being reflected, then all of the profits earned must be applied to that account. That means that, in all likelihood, Sareb’s shareholders (…) will not receive anything for their investments in the company over the next few years. And it is reasonable to think that they will never receive anything, given Sareb’s asset composition.
This is the first time that this fact has ever been acknowledged, more or less explicitly. (…).
Original story: Expansión (by Salvador Arancibia)
Translation: Carmel Drake