Project Olympia: CaixaBank Puts €800M Portfolio of Doubtful SME Loans Up for Sale

23 October 2018 – Voz Pópuli

CaixaBank is pushing ahead with its objective to clean up its toxic property. The Catalan entity is holding negotiations with large international funds to sell the largest portfolio of doubtful SME loans to go on the market to date, amounting to €800 million, according to financial sources consulted by Voz Pópuli.

The deal in question is Project Olympia, which CaixaBank wants to close before the end of the year. It includes loans with real estate guarantees granted to small and medium-sized entities.

This operation joins another that the group led by Gonzalo Gortázar has underway and which is in a more advanced phase, Project Orion, comprising €600 million also in doubtful loans to SMEs with real estate guarantees.

In total, CaixaBank wants to clean up almost €1.5 billion before the end of the year and whereby complete the macro-operation signed with Lone Star to sell almost all of its foreclosed assets for €7 billion. After transferring the homes and land, the only assets left to sell are the problem loans, which is exactly what the entity is doing with Olympia and Orion.

Candidates

Unlike with the sale of the foreclosed assets, the favourites to buy the Olympia portfolio are not large fortunes such as Blackstone, Cerberus, Lone Star and Apollo. In this case, intermediate funds are looking at the operation, such as Axactor, Bain Capital, Intrum and D. E. Shaw. The large funds are saving themselves for other operations underway and to close those already signed during the year.

In the case of Olympia, experts in the market calculate that CaixaBank could obtain around €250 million for this package of loans, whilst the price of Orion could amount to €200 million.

With all of these operations, the Catalan entity is expected to end up with a net exposure (after provisions) to real estate of around €10 billion, down from €20.2 billion at the end of last year.

Beyond the pressure from the ECB to follow this path, the strategy is key for the bank this year due to the closure of its current strategic plan. The lower its exposure to property, the greater the profitability of the entities, which is critical in the current environment.

Original story: Voz Pópuli (Jorge Zuloaga)

Translation: Carmel Drake

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