25 October 2018 – Expansión
The large real estate sale operations formalised during the last year by Santander, BBVA, CaixaBank and Sabadell, amongst other entities, have allowed the Spanish banking sector to reduce its total volume of problematic assets (NPLs) by approximately 60% from the peak of €200 billion reached in December 2013, to €82 billion recorded at the end of the first half of this year.
This massive clean up of a large part of the banks’ balance sheets has caused analysts at the credit rating agency Scope to consider the current ratios of toxic assets as “manageable and more of a legacy left over from the crisis than a real concern”. That is according to the authors of a recent report which evaluates the improvement recorded in the quality of assets in the Spanish banking system as a result of property sale operations such as those of Santander with Blackstone (€30 billion), BBVA and Sabadell with Cerberus (€13 billion and €9.1 billion, respectively) and CaixaBank with Lone Star (€12.8 billion).
Despite the effort carried out by a large part of the sector, those responsible for analysing the Spanish banks at Scope assume that those banks with comparatively worse levels of property exposure will accelerate their cleanups over the coming quarters, either by carrying out large sales or by placing several smaller portfolios.
Sources at Scope expect to see more large operations involving the sale of problem assets over the coming months, given that the large funds are now operating full steam ahead in the real estate segment, and “they are trying to gain scale and capitalise on their recently purchased platforms”, explains the report. Such is the case, for example, of Lone Star, which acquired Servihabitat from CaixaBank, and whichever fund ends up buying Solvia from Sabadell.
Financial sources agree that the cycle of real estate operations in Spain still has several operations in the pipeline, and they point to entities such as Bankia and Cajamar, which have relatively higher levels of problem assets than the sector, as candidates for starring in those transactions. Specifically, Scope points to Cajamar in its report, given that it is the only entity with a ratio of non-performing assets of more than 10%, according to data from the ratings agency.
The analysts at Scope also assume that Bankia will carry out movements to sell a substantial part of its toxic exposure. One of the nationalised entity’s strategic objectives is to accelerate the clean up of its balance sheet over the coming quarters. Moreover, the analysts anticipate that the global NPL ratio will continue to reduce quickly given that the other banks “are already in the process of completing the sale of several foreclosed asset portfolios”, explains the firm in its report.
The funds seek NPLs in other latitudes
Although the activity of buying credit portfolios is still intense in Spain, the funds specialising in these types of assets are setting their sights on other countries in search of opportunities to find value.
Sources in the sector explain that a large number of the opportunistic and real estate funds that have been undertaking operations in Spain are trying to close new transactions in Italy, Portugal, Greece and Cyprus (…).
Original story: Expansión (by Nicolás M. Sarriés)
Translation: Carmel Drake