Fortress Unwinds Its Final Positions In Spain

7 September 2017 – Voz Pópuli

Fortress has definitively closed a chapter in its history in Spain. The US vulture fund, regarded as one of the most aggressive in the world, has launched two operations in the market through which it is looking to offload its final positions in the Spanish financial sector.

The two deals in question are Project San Siro and Project Baresi. In total, they comprise paid and unpaid loans worth around €300 million, according to financial sources consulted by Vozpópuli. The candidates to buy these loan packages include other opportunistic funds.

The two projects essentially comprise the final dregs of the portfolio that Fortress holds in the Spanish banking sector: loans from Santander, Barclays España (now part of CaixaBank) and Lico Leasing, the former finance company of the savings banks that Fortress purchased at the height of the crisis.

The US fund, led in Spain by the banker José María Cava, was one of the first to enter the financial sector at a time when the lack of trust at the international level was at its peak. It was between 2010 and 2011, when the first interventions of the savings banks began and several cold mergers were carried out, which gave rise to groups such as Bankia.

Critical time

Fortress completed its acquisition of a portfolio from Santander in 2012, just before the rescue of the finance sector. In that deal, Fortress purchased €1,000 million in consumer credits from the group chaired by Ana Botín.

A year later, the US fund announced the purchase of Lico Leasing. That was Fortress’ last major operation in Spain, which broke down just two years later. The fund took a long time to obtain authorisation from the Bank of Spain to approve that acquisition, and so by the time it did receive it, the credit tap had been reopened and so Lico arrived late to the recoveries sector.

For that reason, Fortress decided to close this business and its other financial commitments in Spain. First, it sold one of its recoveries platforms (Paratus) to Elliott and Cabot. Next, it sold Geslico to Axactor. And in terms of the other portfolios (Lico, Santander, and Barclays), it let some of them mature and the remainder is what is now being put up for sale.

It also leaves behind other possible opportunities that the fund considered, such as its failed entry into the share capital of Sareb and of other savings banks, with which it was unable to reach an agreement due to the significant price differences. Fortress is now more focused on other business niches in Spain and most notably in the Italian market, where it purchased, together with Pimco, the largest portfolio of loans, worth €17,000 million, from Unicredit last year. Given its profile, the Spanish banking sector will become the focus of Fortress once again when the next crisis hits.

Original story: Voz Pópuli (by Jorge Zuloaga)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Bankia & Apollo Go To Court Re Sale Of Finanmadrid

3 October 2016 – Expansión

Both entities are waiting for the discrepancies that arose from the sale of Finanmadrid to be resolved. The sale was completed in 2013 for €1.6 million

Fracciona Financiera Holding, the subsidiary of Apollo, filed the first lawsuit, in which it claimed €8.5 million from Bankia due to discrepancies in the sale and purchase contract based on the determination of the sales price for Finanmadrid.

The contract included clauses that have an impact on the basis of the evolution of various parameters. These conditions have been common in multiple sales operations closed in the financial sector since the outbreak of the crisis. The asset protection schemes (EPA), which cover the buyers of former savings banks, are the most visible example of these types of operations.

Bankia has responded to the lawsuit filed by Apollo, with its own claim for €6.4 million.

Finanmadrid, which used to specialise in offering consumer credit through retailers and car dealerships, has now been integrated into Avant Tarjetas, a subsidiary of Evo Banco, controlled by Apollo. Previously, it was integrated into Fracciona Financiera Holding. In the company’s accounts from last year, the audit report explains that “in the opinion of the company’s legal advisors, an unfavourable outcome from the lawsuit (with Bankia) is remote, nevertheless, the shareholder (Apollo) would financially support any contingency that may arise in the event that no provision has been recognised”.

Before the integration, Finanmadrid reduced its share capital by €2.24 million to absorb losses and so it was left at €2.79 million.

Apollo’s claim against Bankia forms part of a broad range of claims against the entity chaired by José Ignacio Goirigolzarri. In total, the bank faces claims amounting to €390 million, not including the claims relating to its debut on the stock market and the sale of its preference shares.

Claims

The largest claim, amounting to €165 million, is one presented by ING Belgium, BBVA, Santander and Catalunya Banc against Bankia, ACS and Sacyr. (…).

The construction group Rayet also claims €78.2 million from Bankia for what it considers are accounting irregularities and for differences in the valuation of plots of land linked to the debut of Astroc on the stock market in 2006, an operation piloted by the former Caja Madrid.

The bank has 305 legal proceedings open relating to derivatives with claims amounting to €38.8 million.

Original story: Expansión (by E. del Pozo)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Bank Of Spain: Loans To Families Rose In H1 2016

2 August 2016 – Expansión

First increase since 2010 / The appeal of consumer loans and lower mortgage repayments is leading to a change in the decreasing loan balance trend. However, business financing decreased due to the political uncertainty.

(…) The latest figures from the Bank of Spain and the financial institutions show that the trend in terms of credit is changing, which could make 2016 the year of recovery in the credit sector.

In this sense, loans to families across the sector grew by 1.04% in June and recorded a half year increase, of 0.02%, for the first time since the start of the crisis. In addition, eight of the eleven Spanish entities that have now presented their results, reported increases in gross loans to clients during the first six months of the year.

These figures show that for the first time, the volume of new loans granted by the entities exceed the volume of repayments, thanks to the liquidity measures led by the European Central Bank (ECB) and the need for entities to grow volumes to offset their decreasing margins.

The last time that Spanish financial entities increased their total loan balance to families was during the first half of 2010, when the international financial crisis had not yet reached the Spanish sector.

In this way, families then held financial debt with Spanish banks amounting to €724,100 million, i.e. €117 million higher than the €723,993 million balance at the end of 2015.

Boost from consumption

This rise comes mainly due a boost from consumer credit in recent months, thanks to the economic recovery and the gradual reduction in unemployment. In this way, the outstanding consumer loan balance increased from €162,000 million at the end of 2015 to €171,00 million at the end of June 2016.

This €9,000 million growth offset the incessant deleveraging of households away from mortgages, which have decreased from more than €549,000 million in December last year to almost €541,000 million at the end of the first half of this year. In other words, a difference of €8,000 million, below the growth in consumption.

These figures reflect a deceleration in the decrease of the outstanding mortgage balance, which has been falling at a rate of more than €25,000 million in recent years. In 2016, repayments have slowed and the granting of new mortgages has increased, as reflected by the new credit data.

The change in the trend of loans to households has not affected financing for companies. That decreased by 1.6% during the first 6 months of the year – from €918,199 million to €903,378 million – due to the opening of other alternatives such as MARG and the issue of bonds, and the deceleration in demand caused by the political uncertainty. That was one of the main concerns expressed by Spanish bankers during the presentations of their half year results. (…).

By entity

(…)The increase in Bankinter’s loan balance (13.7%) was noteworthy, although that figure was impacted by the acquisition of Barclays Portugal, given that the entity does not segregate those numbers. It was followed by Abanca,which reported that its financing balance grew by 4.1%; CaixaBank, with a rise of 1%; and Santander España, with an increase of 0.8%. (…).

Original story: Expansión (by J. Zuloaga)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Bank Lending To Individuals Peaked In April

8 June 2016 – Expansión

The banks are stepping on the accelerator to sign new loan contracts. In April, the rate of new mortgages and consumer loans granted by Spanish financial institutions reached levels not seen since before the rescue (of the sector) in 2012. Nevertheless, new operations to large companies declined during the month, which meant that the total volume of new loans granted in April decreased by 7.9% to €34,600 million, according to data from the Bank of Spain.

In this way, Spain’s banks are clearly focusing on three areas to secure new business and whereby improve their returns:

1. Mortgages: the volume of new mortgages to buy homes amounted to €5,173 million in April, twice as much as last year and the highest monthly figure since December 2012. Even so, that figure does include renegotiations. If we exclude those, the amount of new money granted for mortgages during April amounted to €2,920 million, i.e. 45% more than during the same month last year and the second highest monthly figure in the last year. The banks hope to offset the low profitability of the mortgages granted during the years of the real estate boom with these new mortgages.

2. Consumer credit: Another segment that the financial entities are pushing hard is that of consumer credit, in light of the high interest rates being offered (c. 7.52%), according to the latest figures from the Bank of Spain. In this way, the financial sector granted €2,330 million of new financing to consumers in April, almost 50% more than a year earlier and the largest volume since May 2010.

3. SMEs: The financial sector is also focusing on its business with SMEs, where the banks are waging a battle to secure new clients. Nevertheless, the loan volumes there did not reach record levels in April – €11,710 million was granted, which was 14% more than a year earlier, but lower than the figure in December – like in the cases of mortgages and consumer credit, but the price at which new loans are being granted did, averaging 7.52%, the lowest level seen in recent months.

However, the banks have encountered a more complex panorama in the market for medium-sized and large business. Regarding the former, the volume of new loans grew by just 4% in April, whilst in the case of the later, the volume of loans granted declined by 40%. According to Fernando Alonso, Director of Companies and Corporations at BBVA, speaking in a recent interview, the “political uncertainty may well be delaying investment decisions at the corporate level”.

For the first time, the Bank of Spain provided data about renegotiations in its figures for April; it also gave details about loans to companies by amount; deferred credit card payments – also at record highs -; and overdrafts to households and companies.

Original story: Expansión (by J. Zuloaga)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Cajamar And Cetelem Join Forces To Supply Consumer Credit

24 February 2015 – Cinco Días

Cetelem and Banco de Crédito Cooperativo (BCC), the parent company of the Cajamar Cooperative Group (Grupo Cooperativo Cajamar), have reached an agreement to form a joint venture that will specialise in the commercialisation of consumer credit in Spain, according to a press release.

The company, which will be owned by Cetelem España and BCC, will be constituted as a financial credit institution and its (primary) objective will be the distribution of personal loans and revolving credit lines (with or without credit cards) through the Cajamar Coooperative Group’s network of 1,300 branches.

BCC will contribute 49% of the initial share capital and will appoint the Chairman of the company. Cetelem will finance the remaining 51% and will appoint the CEO. BCC has been advised in this transaction by Société Générale.

Both entities agree that their commercial partnership will contribute to the development of consuming financing in Spain, thanks to Cetelem’s experience and knowledge (it is one of the most important players in the sector) and the extensive network of Cajamar Cooperative Group’s rural savings banks.

Thierry Laborde, Chairman and CEO of BNP Paribas Personal Finance, states: “We welcome this agreement, which has been established with one of the most important financial institutions in Spain. The agreement supports our development strategy based on partnerships between players in the distribution, automobile and finance sectors, in the countries in which we have a presence”.

Luis Rodriguez González, Chairman of BCC-Grupo Cajamar, reiterates his interest in consumer credit, which is a strategic activity for the 20 entities that constitute the Cajamar Cooperative Group. “This agreement confirms our on-going commitment to customers, adapting to their needs and offering them competitive, high quality products, in this case, consumer financing”. For this reason, “we are delighted about our alliance with Cetelem, the market leader in consumer credit and a global leader, renowned for its capacity for innovation, technological development and financial services”.

Original story: Cinco Días

Translation: Carmel Drake