4 October 2017 – Cinco Días
Liberbank does not want to follow in the footsteps of Popular and is taking firm strides to avoid that fate. Its focus now is on shaking off the property that it still holds following the crisis, in order to project the image in the market that it has cleaned up its books and to ensure the success of its upcoming capital increase. In this way, the entity is finalising the sale of a large part of its portfolio of foreclosed assets this week, in parallel to the capital increase, which its General Shareholders’ Meeting is expected to approve on 9 October.
The entity led by Manuel Menéndez is working against the clock to ensure its independence. The CNMV has given it until 30 November to extend, for the third time, a veto on short positions that it imposed in June, a few days after Popular’s future was resolved. Sources close to the operation expect the first stage (the sale of a portfolio worth €800 million) to be closed this week. Or within 15 days, at the latest, since in that case, it would be performed in parallel to the start of the capital increase.
Liberbank received the first binding offers at the beginning of last week. And from those, it has selected three funds: KKR, Bain and Cerberus. The latter is the firm that acquired the bank’s real estate subsidiary, Mihabitans, in the summer, through Haya Real Estate. It spent €85 million on that purchase. The market described the operation as a “success” and uses it as an example for the upcoming sale of the toxic property.
Haya is exclusively managing the current foreclosed real estate assets on Liberbank’s balance sheet, as well as any future foreclosed real estate assets that end up being incorporated onto the bank’s overall balance sheet or onto those of any of its real estate subsidiaries. According to the accounts for the first half of the year, Liberbank held €3,115 million in foreclosed assets on its balance sheet, with a provision coverage ratio of 40%. Of those, €1,741 million are finished homes, €1,162 million are plots of land, €480 million are homes under construction and €402 million are offices and warehouses.
This new sale of foreclosed assets, dubbed ‘Operación Invictus’, will be closed for a price of around €400 million. Although the book value of the real estate assets in the portfolio is €800 million, the sale will be closed at a discount of at least 50%. Santander closed the sale of 51% of Popular’s property to Blackstone at a discount of 66%.
With the aim of wiping out the losses that this sale will generate and of getting rid of a large part of its real estate portfolio, once and for all, the Board of Directors of Liberbank proposed a capital increase on 6 September, which they are now trying to safeguard. The bank hopes to raise €500 million through the operation. The objective is for the bank’s default ratio to amount to 3.5% by 2019 and for the coverage ratio on its non-performing assets (doubtful loans and foreclosed assets) to rise to around 50%. At the end of June, Liberbank recorded figures of 11.3% and 40% for these ratios, respectively.
With a balance sheet of €40,000 million, Liberbank is the smallest entity of those supervised by the ECB, together with Banco Crédito Social Cooperativo, the parent company of Cajamar. One of Liberbank’s other missions is to increase its return on equity (ROE) to 8% by 2020, compared with the figure of 2.7% recorded during the first half of this year. It is the second time that the bank has increased its share capital since it started trading on the stock market in 2013. The previous capital increase, in May 2014, saw it raise almost €500 million.
Then, the bank responsible for coordinating the operation was Deutsche Bank; now it is being managed by Citi. Last time, the injection of fresh funds allowed the entity to early repay €124 million that the FROB (Fund for Orderly Bank Restructuring or ‘Fondo de Reestructuración Ordenada Bancaria’) had injected it with; to strength its top-tier capital ratio to more than 10%, as if the Basel III requirements were completely applicable; and to bring forward the payment of dividends to its shareholders.
Original story: Cinco Días (by Álvaro Bayón and Pablo M. Simón)
Translation: Carmel Drake