Santander Is Ready To Divest €7,500M Of Popular’s Problem RE

21 June 2017 – Cinco Días

Banco Santander acquired Popular last week, including its €30,000 million real estate exposure (comprising properties and problem loans), which the entity dragged into the new model of European resolution. That slab ended up taking out Popular’s new President, Emilio Saracho, after he proved himself incapable of finding a credible solution for unblocking the property on the entity’s balance sheet, despite taking over the reins in February.

By contrast, the President of Banco Santander, Ana Botín, needed just a few hours to appear publicly with a strong message to calm the market. “We are going to divest half of the real estate assets in 18 months”, she said. A challenge into which her entity will invest €7,200 million to clean up the bank that it purchased for €1. But that is just the first step.

The signal that Santander is going to give the market is one of an agile response to digest the real estate assets. Whilst it has already taken a decision to increase the coverage of those assets, which guarantees that it will be able to sell them with large discounts without having to record large losses, the bank is now in a position to sell both the secured debt portfolio and the real estate assets in an accelerated manner. In total, it has identified €7,500 million in assets that it could divest in a matter of months if it so decides.

Doubtful debt

Of the €12,100 million in doubtful loans inherited from Popular, the company presided over by Botín has a battery of up to €5,000 million that it has already identified that it could package up and sell as quickly as it wants, according to financial sources familiar with the portfolio.

These sources indicate that Santander will likely slice up the €5,000 million into several portfolios and put them up for sale. Although this is a significant amount, the financial sector considers that if the bank puts the packages on the market at a good price, it will receive quite a favourable response from the typical opportunistic funds that participate in these types of processes.

Strategy with subsidiaries

Moreover, it has been revealed that the entity presided over by Botín will likely use its real estate subsidiaries to digest the assets. That is the first scenario being considered by the team from Santander that is intervening in Popular. In fact, it has already come up with some provisional figures regarding how much could be transferred to the different companies: between €2,100 million and €2,500 million.

A large part of that amount, around €1,200 million, corresponds to land that can be transferred to Metrovacesa, according to the same sources. Santander owns a 70% stake in that company, in addition to the c.9% stake held by Popular. (…).

Santander is also currently evaluating the contribution of between €500 million and €800 million in high-quality tertiary assets (primarily offices) to the Socimi Merlin Properties, which is listed on the Ibex 35. That process – which could be approved before the end of the year – would be completed only after analysing the assets and evaluating whether they fit with the company’s current portfolio, which contains properties worth more than €10,000 million. (…).

Finally, the entity may also transfer rental homes worth between €400 million and €500 million to the Socimi Testa, which it plans to debut on the stock market in 2018 and which is currently negotiating the incorporation of Acciona’s buildings into its portfolio (…).

Sources at the bank warn that it is still too early to quantify the assets that it wants to put up for sale first, given that any sale would have to be preceded by a new valuation process. (…).

The team that is going to lead this process on Banco Santander’s side is being led by José Antonio García Cantera, the man that Botín has put at the head of Popular for this transition period until the full integration has been completed, and by Francisco Javier García-Carranza, the entity’s new CEO. (…).

Original story: Cinco Días

Translation: Carmel Drake

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