25 April 2017 – El Mundo
Spain’s banks want to take advantage of the improving conditions in the real estate market to accelerate the clean up of the non-performing assets that are still weighing down on their balance sheets, almost 10 years after the burst of the bubble. The main entities currently have €6,200 million in toxic assets of all kind up for sale, including land, doubtful loans, hard to recover loans, homes, hotels, industrial warehouses…
Spain’s banks have been working on this process for at least five years, and with particular intensity for the last three. Bankia, for example, has sold €10,000 million since 2013 and CaixaBank has sold €5,000 million in the last two years. The most recent major operation was closed by Banco Sabadell, in January, for €950 million.
Now, in addition to Banco Popular, which has a large volume of toxic assets still to clean up, entities such as Ibercaja, BBVA, CaixaBank and Bankia are offering investment funds assets worth thousands of millions of euros, because they prefer to sell them at a loss, than maintain them on their balance sheets. The entities are accepting losses to improve their default ratios and doubtful client figures. For the funds, the aim is to take advantage of the discounts on offer to obtain very high returns from the subsequent recovery or resale of the underlying assets. (…).
The €6,200 million currently up for sale on this wholesale market, which has a low profile despite its volume, increases to €7,800 million if we take into account the operations completed during the month of January by Banco Sabadell, BBVA, Deutsche Bank and Bankia.
Based on the operations currently on the market, Ibercaja, BBVA and Sareb (…) are the entities with the largest volume of assets up for sale. The bank chaired by Francisco González is planning to conduct a significant cleanup of its balance sheet in 2017 and is currently offering assets and secured and unsecured loans to small developers amounting to €860 million. During the first quarter of 2017, it sold 14 buildings in Cataluña and Valencia and a portfolio containing 3,500 properties to the fund Blackstone.
Meanwhile, last year, CaixaBank completed the sale of two portfolios to funds such as Apollo and DE Shaw, amounting to €1,400 million, and this year it has a portfolio of non-performing loans to property developers, amounting to €600 million. The default rate of the Catalan bank has decreased from 11% at the peak of the crisis to 6.9% now and its doubtful clients have decreased by 47% since 2013.
Nevertheless, the market expects more supply to come onto the market. The European Central Bank (ECB) is putting pressure on the entities to conduct a comprehensive clean-up in order to dispel the myths regarding how profitable they are. Bank of America Merrill Lynch considers that the volume of foreclosed assets held by the main banks still exceeds €34,000 million and that more than €10,000 million still needs to be sold in terms of land alone, which puts the sector’s capacity to clean itself up in real doubt.
The strategy that Banco Popular is following in this regard, which has to get rid of at least €16,000 million, is considered definitive. The prices that it sets and the outcome of its crisis may influence the plans of the other entities, especially those of the smallest, unlisted firms. (…).
Original story: El Mundo (by César Urrutia)
Translation: Carmel Drake