GS & Cerberus Exit ‘Project Elcano’ Due To Political Uncertainty
24 June 2015 – El Confidencial
Banco Popular, led by Ángel Ron (pictured above), is seeking to divest real estate assets worth €500 million (Project Elcano), but the political uncertainty in Spain is making investors nervous.
According to sources close to proceedings, the main candidates in the running to take over Popular’s portfolio – namely, the private equity fund Cerberus and Goldman Sachs – have decided to postpone investment until after the general election in November, by which time the current uncertain outlook in the country should have cleared.
The same sources add that these two candidates have indicated to Popular that, given the situation in the country following the results of the municipal and regional elections and the subsequent (political) agreements being made, they are not willing to pay the price demanded by the bank; i.e. if the entity really wants to sell, then it will have to lower its (price) expectations.
Ron’s response has been negative because he is not willing to assume additional losses over and above the provisions already recognised against this portfolio. Moreover, other parties are interested in the operation, which means that it could still go ahead before the elections. A spokesman for Popular declined to comment on this information.
This withdrawal is not an isolated case. The uncertainty generated following 24-M (the municipal and regional elections held on 24 May) has had a dual effect amongst the large international investors: firstly, it has made them cautious and slam down on the breaks, whereby delaying numerous deals. Secondly, it has made them reduce their bids, which has punctured the emerging bubble that was forming in the Spanish market, particularly with respect to high quality assets. (…).
Nervousness in the market
Thus, Popular is the latest victim of this new environment in the Spanish market. However, investors and asset managers consider that the case of this bank in particular in more concerning. They are worried about Popular’s sizeable exposure to real estate (it holds around €11,000 million of RE on its books, net of provisions), because they consider that it is not sufficiently provisioned and its latent losses may require new capital contributions. As a result, the announcement that it was going to divest an initial package of €500 million assets generated relief in the market.
For this reason, these latest problems around closing the sale have made some players in the market very nervous. Yesterday, that resulted in decreases of 1.16% on the stock exchange on a day of increases for the Ibex. Popular’s share price has increased by around 15% this year, i.e. by more than the rest of the sector, with the exception of BBVA and Sabadell, however its valuation still falls below those of the major players in the sector at 0.76 times its book value. (…).
Original story: El Confidencial (by Eduardo Segovia)
Translation: Carmel Drake