The State Will Lose €1,000m From Martinsa’s Liquidation

4 March 2015 – Expansión

The collapse of the real estate company will result in losses of €1,000 million for Bankia and the ‘bad bank’.

According to experts, Blesa assumed ‘a high risk’ in the company for ‘possible favourable treatment’.

The State will become the biggest loser following the largest liquidation in Spain’s history. The bankruptcy of Martinsa Fadesa will have already cost Bankia – due to the loans it inherited from the savings banks it acquired – and the bad bank Sareb more than €1,000 million and this amount may end up exceeding €1,3000 million, according to sources from the real estate sector.

The Chairman of Martinsa Fadesa, Fernando Martín (pictured), has filed for the company’s liquidation after he failed to reach an agreement with its creditors, led by Sareb. The bad bank holds debt of more than €1,400 million that it inherited mainly from Caja Madrid, but also from other nationalised savings banks. According to sources at Martinsa, it would have been less costly for the bad bank – whose financial risk is guaranteed 100% by the State – to accept an agreement with Martín, because then it would have been able to recover at least 25% of its debt, but that now becomes impossible due to its bankruptcy.

Yesterday, various vulture funds offered to purchase Martinsa Fadesa’s debt for a discount of up to 96%, given the high probability that all of the creditors will lose the bulk of the funds they lent, according to market sources.

Sources at Sareb responded that, “unfortunately, the best option is the one that has gone ahead; there was no viable alternative in terms of (the real estate company’s) continuity”. At the bad bank, whose primary shareholder is the state-owned FROB, with a 45% stake, they think that it too early to talk about and quantify losses. They still think that they will be able to recover the amount loaned to Martinsa Fadesa from the liquidation of its assets in the full course of time.

Sareb is Martinsa’s main creditor with its aforementioned debt of €1,400 million, followed by CaixaBank (€908 million) and Banco Popular (€580 million). In total, the real estate company’s debt amounts to €7,000 million and the creditors consider that only €800 million of the real estate company’s assets have any value; they are going to dispute them to avoid Sareb taking a clean sweep.

The background to this disaster began in 2007 when, according to expert reports from the Bank of Spain, Caja Madrid became “one of the entities that assumed the most risk in the merger of Martinsa and Fadeas” when it assumed exposure in the real estate company amounting to €1,032 million “of which only 28% was secured”. The experts maintain that the then Chairman of Caja Madrid, Miguel Blesa, was incited by the offer of “possible favourable treatment” from the real estate company created by Fernando Martín. The person responsible for granting the loan at Caja Madrid, Carlos Vela, was hired by Martín as the new CEO but, one year later, he was recruited back to the savings bank again by Blesa, days before the real estate company logged its first suspension of payments. Subsequently, Caja Madrid’s exposure to Martinsa was taken on by the new BFA-Bankia group, together with other amounts from Bancaja and the other savings banks that were integrated as part of the merger. And in 2012, the European Union conditioned its bailout of the Spanish banking sector on the creation of Sareb, amongst other measures. The then new Chairman of Bankia, José Ignacio Goirigolzarri, transferred the toxic assets to Sareb at a discount of more than 50%, which represented the State’s first loss of more than €500 million in the case of Martinsa, although the entity did not disclose the actual amount. Other nationalised savings banks did the same thing, whereby converting Sareb into Martinsa Fadesa’s largest creditor.

Sareb was confident that, having purchased the debt at a discount, it would be able to recover and even make a profit on its exposure, if Martinsa Fadesa managed to improve its situation, however that proved impossible. Last year, Fernando Martín offered the bad bank a refinancing agreement, which involved a haircut of 66% in return for becoming a shareholder. Sareb ruled that option out as it questioned Martín’s management and the fact that the Chairman had earned a fixed salary of €1.5million per year despite the company’s woes.

Sources close to the property developer say that this salary “is negligible compared with the €2,400 million that he himself lost following the acquisition of Fadesa” and they deny that representatives from Sareb and from other banks had requested his departure during the final weeks in return for accepting the haircut. “They have not made that request in any of the meetings, on the contrary, they have asked him to continue at the helm”.

The creditor banks indicate that, like with all liquidation cases, there will now be an investigation to determine whether Martín is criminally liable; they criticise the fact that he has embarked on expensive adventures in recent months, such as filing the lawsuit against the former owner of Fadesa, Manuel Jove. “The legal costs of the defeat against Jove may exceed €60 million”. “False”,  reply Martinsa, “they will be less than €20 million”,.

Either way, the figures are vast, and mean that the real estate company becomes a symbol of the rise and fall of the property boom that was supported by the savings banks.

It now remains to be seen who will administer the complex liquidation process. The favourite, KPMG, may be conflicted out because it has worked with Sareb in the past.

Original story: Expansión

Translation: Carmel Drake