Spain’s Banks Race Against the Clock to Sell Off Their Problem RE Assets

28 May 2018 – Eje Prime

The banks are facing a new record. The entities have cut their problem assets almost in half over the last four years, but now they are trying to get rid of thousands of properties in record time to keep the supervisor happy, along with investors. The Bank of Spain warned just this week that the volume of impaired assets continues to be high, given that foreclosed assets amount to €58 billion and doubtful loans still amount to almost €100 billion, something that concerns the ECB and penalises the sector on the stock market.

Specifically, Spanish banks’ problem assets amounted to €152 billion at the end of 2017, a very high volume, but 46% lower than the €280 billion registered as at December 2013.

In addition to the cost that maintaining these assets on the balance sheet has for entities, they also prevent them from allocating resources to other activities more in keeping with the banking sector that would generate higher returns, which worsens the problems of returns in the sector especially at a time of very low interest rates.

In 2017, in the face of clear pressure on the banks to significantly reduce their problem assets, the Spanish market resurfaced to account for approximately 50% of the European market for the sale of problem assets, recall the experts.

The announcement by Cerberus of its purchase of 80% of BBVA’s problem assets and the acquisition by Blackstone of 51% of Aliseda and of Popular’s non-performing assets clearly marked a turning point.

And currently, taking into account the portfolios that are up for sale and the forecasts for the reduction in non-performing assets in the plans of many Spanish banks, a high volume of transactions is also expected in 2018.

The entities are on the case

Sabadell is planning to decrease its non-performing assets by €2 billion per year until 2020, although, depending on investor appetite and the agreements with the Deposit Guarantee Fund (FGD), that figure may rise considerably in 2018, explain sources at Funcas.

Meanwhile, in its strategic plan for 2018-2020, Bankia is forecasting the sale of €2.9 billion problem assets per year, even though the entity got rid of much of its real estate hangover with the creation of Sareb, the bad bank.

The placement on the market of this significant volume of assets is not only limited to the large entities; it is also involving smaller firms such as Ibercaja and Liberbank, which are also planning to divest assets.

In the case of the former, its plans involve cutting its problem assets in half between now and 2020, which translates into a decrease of around €600 million per year, whilst Liberbank is looking at reductions of €900 million per year until 2020.

For 2018, Santander has set itself the objective of €6 billion, whilst Sareb is aiming for €3 billion, which shows the real commitment that the entities have to cleaning up their balance sheets and to keeping the supervisor, and the markets, happy. Now they just need to deliver.

Original story: Eje Prime

Translation: Carmel Drake

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