Spain’s Banks Set to Sell €120bn+ in Problem Assets This Year

4 July 2018 – Cinco Días

Spain’s banks are stepping down on the accelerator to put an end to the property hangover, although it will still take another two or three years for them to get rid of all of the excesses left over from the financial crisis. And that is not so much due to the leftover real estate portfolios but more because of the portfolios of non-performing loans, a caption that is continuing to augment the balance sheets of financial institutions.

In this way, the experts hope that this year will see a new record in terms of the sale of portfolios, for an approximate total of €120 billion, including the macro-operations from Santander and BBVA, announced last year but completed this year. Without them, the figure could amount to more than €51 billion, slightly higher than in 2017, which would increase to €80 billion if Sareb manages to sell a €30 billion portfolio.

Pressure from the European Central Bank (ECB) and the Bank of Spain, as well as that exerted by the market itself, is causing financial institutions to opt to sell their portfolios of problem assets in single operations wherever possible, rather than selling them off in a piecemeal fashion, in light of the prospects of rising prices.

Interest from opportunistic funds to invest in Spain and, also forecasts for even greater price rises for real estate assets in the future, are leading the banks to take advantage of the opportunity to clean-up their balance sheets between this year and next, just 10 years after the start of the crisis, explain several experts.

“The funds have large amounts of liquidity. Moreover, interest rates are still at historical minimums (still negative) and so financing can be obtained at very low prices, hence their interest in buying large portfolios of assets linked to property. They want to take advantage of the current climate”, explains Íñigo Laspiur, Director of Corporate Finance CBRE España.

All of the experts agree that the sale by Santander of Popular’s property to Blackstone, an operation announced last year, but ratified at the beginning of this year, for a gross amount of around €30 billion, was the trigger that caused the banks to decide to divest their portfolios on a mass scale.

Since that operation was ratified at the beginning of this year, to date, the banks have divested more than €62 billion in problem assets. That amount includes BBVA’s operation with Cerberus, the fund to which it sold €13 billion. Nevertheless, that operation is still pending approval from the Deposit Guarantee Fund (FGD) since some of it forms part of the Asset Protection Scheme (EPA), having proceeded from the former savings bank Unnim.

Financial sources maintain that there are currently operations underway amounting to another €21 billion, plus an addition €8 billion that may be closed over the coming months. The largest include the sale of around €11 billion in assets from Sabadell (of which €900 million has already been sold to Axactor), whose sale is scheduled for this month.

To these figures another €30 billion gross may be added from the sale of a Sareb portfolio this year if Pedro Sánchez’s Government approves that potential operation in the end. Santander has also put up for sale another €6 billion.

Original story: Cinco Días (by Ángeles Gonzalo Alconada)

Translation: Carmel Drake

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