18 February 2018 – Voz Pópuli
Good news for the banks. The heavy burden of recent years, their exposure to real estate, is causing less concern, little by little. The work undertaken over the last year has allowed the large institutions to reduce their volume of problem assets (doubtful and foreclosed loans) to less than €100 billion.
That is according to the findings of a report from the consultancy firm Alvarez & Marsal based on figures at the end of 2017: the five largest banks (Santander, BBVA, CaixaBank, Sabadell and Bankia) decreased their toxic assets from €145 billion to €106 billion. That calculation does include the transfer of €30 billion from Popular to Blackstone – which will be completed within the next few weeks, – but not the sale of €13 billion from BBVA to Cerberus.
Taking into account the latter operation, the level of toxic assets held by the five largest banks amounts to €93 billion, having decreased by 36% since 2016. Those figures do not include exposure to other entities that also made significant efforts in this regard during 2017, such as Liberbank.
According to the report, after all of the events of last year, CaixaBank is the entity that now has the largest volume of problem assets on its balance sheet, with €27 billion. The group chaired by Jordi Gual has engaged KPMG to undertake a large divestment of its foreclosed assets, but that it is taking longer than expected.
The second-placed entity in the ranking is Santander, with an exposure of €25 billion, which in net terms (after provisions) amounts to €13 billion. Its CEO, José Antonio Álvarez, announced a few months ago that he expects to divest around €6 billion this year.
The third bank in the ranking is BBVA, with €21 billion, before the sale of €13 billion to Cerberus. Once that operation has been closed (scheduled for the end of the first half of this year), it will be the most healthy entity, with the highest levels of coverage.
Sabadell is another of the entities that has made the greatest efforts to liquidate its property in recent months. It decreased its balance from €19 billion to €15 billion in 2017 and is planning big sales this year, provided it receives approval from the Deposit Guarantee Fund.
Meanwhile, Bankia has actually increased its exposure, by integrating BMN, although it will not reveal its plans in this regard until it unveils its next strategic plan (at the end of this month).
The bulk of the work in the sector has now been completed. Nevertheless, the home straight still remains, which is what will be tackled this year, to a large extent. With this, the banks will be able to turn the page and dedicate their resources to granting credit rather than to covering past losses.
Original story: Voz Pópuli (by Jorge Zuloaga)
Translation: Carmel Drake