BNP Paribas: Property Sales by Banks Amounted to €73.5bn in 9 Months to September

30 October 2018 – Eje Prime

Financial institutions are continuing to put their real estate on the market. The sale of portfolios of real estate assets by banks is expected to amount to €16.5 billion between October and December, according to the latest report published by BNP Paribas Real Estate.

The entity’s latest report reflects that sales amounting to €73.5 billion were made during the nine months to September. “The pressure that the European Central Bank is exerting on the financial entities to ensure that they do not speculate with the assets they hold on their balance sheets is generating a wave of sales of large portfolios of residential assets”, said David Alonso, Director of Research at BNP Paribas España, according to reports from Cinco Días.

The largest operations undertaken so far this year relate to Banco Santander, with the sale of Project Quasar to the investment fund Blackstone for €30 billion; the sale by the bank BBVA of Project Marina to Cerberus for €13 billion; and the sale by CaixaBank to LoneStar of 80% of its real estate business for €12.8 billion.

Despite the eye-wateringly large figures highlighted in the report, the funds acquiring the properties tend to obtain an average discount of 65% and so the final prices are considerably lower than the nominal value in each case. “The main buyers are opportunistic investment funds and when it comes to completing their purchases, they typically demand discounts of between 50% and 80% of the asset value”, explained Alonso.

The arrival of new players with an appetite for the Spanish real estate market, such as the Socimis, investment funds and joint ventures, has boosted the purchase of several debt portfolios from bank entities in recent years. “They are agents that were not present six years ago; with these purchases, they have helped the banks to significantly reduce the property on their balance sheets, and they have also increased the control over loans to property developers and the management of residential buildings for profit”, said Alonso.

Original story: Eje Prime

Translation: Carmel Drake

Solvia: Sabadell Puts its Real Estate Subsidiary Up For Sale

17 October 2018 – El País

Sabadell is going to listen to offers from several real estate vulture funds that are interested in acquiring its subsidiary Solvia, the manager of its properties. The entity, which declined to comment, has now entrusted the sales process to an investment bank. In the summer, Jaime Guardiola, CEO of Sabadell, justified holding onto Solvia due to “the great contribution it makes to the bank”, but now he is taking a step towards selling it. Sources in the sector indicate that Sabadell wants to strengthen itself and take advantage of the good climate still being enjoyed in the real estate market.

The banks are getting rid of properties before the booming market deflates. They are selling not only portfolios, but also the companies that specialise in the management of those real estate assets, known in the sector as servicers. Until now, it was typical for the banks to include their servicers in the package of asset sales: that is what CaixaBank did with Servihabitat and BBVA with Anida.

But, Sabadell wanted to get more mileage out of its subsidiary and so decided not to sell Solvia when it divested around €12.2 billion of its properties to Axactor, Cerberus, Deutsche Bank and Carval. Nevertheless, Sabadell has now taken the definitive step and is open to offers from the interested vulture funds. According to sources in the market, the interested parties include Cerberus and Oaktree.

148,000 assets under management

Based on data as at May 2018, Solvia is one of the leaders in the real estate services market in Spain, with a portfolio of 148,000 units in assets under management, whose value exceeds €31 billion, according to the entity. In a report from Goldman Sachs, Sabadell indicates that Solvia’s annual profit amounts to €40 million.

The company has extensive experience in the marketing of new build developments, given that it has placed more than 10,000 homes in new developments on the market since 2015. At the moment, Solvia has 55 developments up for sale. In terms of rental, as of October, the firm was managing 32,000 assets, of which 74% belong to Sabadell. Solvia also works with other clients, including Sareb.

The report from Goldman Sachs noted that Sabadell could sell Solvia as a way of raising its capital ratios, with little detriment to its income statement.

Market sources agree with these arguments to explain the step taken by Sabadell. On the one hand, as the European Central Bank has indicated, entities must accelerate the sale of all businesses relating to the real estate sector. The banks are aware that times of lower economic growth will come and understand the importance of taking advantage of the appetite that the large international funds still have for Spanish property.

On the other hand, the sale of Solvia will also result in cost savings, a reduction in the workforce and, above all, lower capital consumption. In the last quarter, between March and June, Sabadell’s capital ratio decreased by one point, from 12% to 11% for its CET 1 fully loaded capital ratio (the highest quality indicator). The limit on the basis of which the ECB applies severe measures is 10.5%.

This decrease was due to the problems that Sabadell has been facing with its British subsidiary TSB, which was left without a service for weeks. Between March and June, the bank lost €138 million in provisions against real estate portfolios and the problems at TSB.

Original story: El País (by Íñigo de Barrón)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Project Newton: Bankia Puts €450M Toxic Asset Portfolio Up for Sale

21 September 2018 – Voz Pópuli

The insatiable appetite of the opportunistic funds for Spanish property is never ending and the banks are taking advantage to reduce their exposure to real estate assets and whereby clean up their balance sheets. The latest to come to the market is Bankia, which has put a €450 million portfolio up for sale comprising primarily property developer loans, although Project Newton, as the operation has been baptised, also includes a small proportion of foreclosed assets, according to financial sources consulted by Vozpópuli.

Newton’s sale is expected to be completed this year and will be followed by two other asset portfolios that the bank plans to sell soon, according to reports from Bloomberg. The operations disclosed by the US agency include a €1,500M portfolio comprising unpaid mortgages and a €2,000M portfolio comprising foreclosed assets.

At the end of the first half of the year, the entity chaired by José Ignacio Goirigolzarri held €15.2 billion in toxic assets, after reducing its balance by €1.7 billion between the months of January and June.

Strategic plan

With the sale of the three aforementioned portfolios before the end of the year, the bank would more than exceed its annual objective in terms of asset sales, which amounts to €2.9 billion per year for the next three years. In fact, if Bankia divests all three portfolios, its real estate exposure would decrease to €11.25 billion, and so it would follow in the footsteps of the other entities that have accelerated the sale of these types of assets in the last year.

The most recent example is Santander, which on Wednesday closed the sale to Cerberus of a portfolio of properties worth around €2.79 billion with a 45% discount. The initial perimeter of the operation was €5.1 billion, but in the end, the commercial premises and land that had been included in Project Apple were left out of the final portfolio.

The entity already transferred Popular’s property last year to a joint venture with Blackstone, and so its real estate exposure will decrease to around €7.3 billion once the Apple sale is completed.

Meanwhile, BBVA, which also sold €13 billion in foreclosed assets to Cerberus, has entrusted the sale of €2.5 billion in problem loans to Alantra. That operation will reduce the real estate exposure of the bank chaired by Francisco González to almost zero.

Moreover, Sabadell and CaixaBank have also completed significant operations in recent months. The former sold €9.1 billion in foreclosed assets to Cerberus, whilst the latter divested almost all of its real estate business: €12.8 billion in real estate assets, which were acquired by Lone Star.

In this way, the banks are complying with the guidelines set out by the European Central Bank (ECB) and are generating returns from their businesses in Spain, which have been weighing them down since the economic crisis.

Original story: Voz Pópuli (by Pepe Bravo)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Spain’s Banks Set to Sell €120bn+ in Problem Assets This Year

4 July 2018 – Cinco Días

Spain’s banks are stepping down on the accelerator to put an end to the property hangover, although it will still take another two or three years for them to get rid of all of the excesses left over from the financial crisis. And that is not so much due to the leftover real estate portfolios but more because of the portfolios of non-performing loans, a caption that is continuing to augment the balance sheets of financial institutions.

In this way, the experts hope that this year will see a new record in terms of the sale of portfolios, for an approximate total of €120 billion, including the macro-operations from Santander and BBVA, announced last year but completed this year. Without them, the figure could amount to more than €51 billion, slightly higher than in 2017, which would increase to €80 billion if Sareb manages to sell a €30 billion portfolio.

Pressure from the European Central Bank (ECB) and the Bank of Spain, as well as that exerted by the market itself, is causing financial institutions to opt to sell their portfolios of problem assets in single operations wherever possible, rather than selling them off in a piecemeal fashion, in light of the prospects of rising prices.

Interest from opportunistic funds to invest in Spain and, also forecasts for even greater price rises for real estate assets in the future, are leading the banks to take advantage of the opportunity to clean-up their balance sheets between this year and next, just 10 years after the start of the crisis, explain several experts.

“The funds have large amounts of liquidity. Moreover, interest rates are still at historical minimums (still negative) and so financing can be obtained at very low prices, hence their interest in buying large portfolios of assets linked to property. They want to take advantage of the current climate”, explains Íñigo Laspiur, Director of Corporate Finance CBRE España.

All of the experts agree that the sale by Santander of Popular’s property to Blackstone, an operation announced last year, but ratified at the beginning of this year, for a gross amount of around €30 billion, was the trigger that caused the banks to decide to divest their portfolios on a mass scale.

Since that operation was ratified at the beginning of this year, to date, the banks have divested more than €62 billion in problem assets. That amount includes BBVA’s operation with Cerberus, the fund to which it sold €13 billion. Nevertheless, that operation is still pending approval from the Deposit Guarantee Fund (FGD) since some of it forms part of the Asset Protection Scheme (EPA), having proceeded from the former savings bank Unnim.

Financial sources maintain that there are currently operations underway amounting to another €21 billion, plus an addition €8 billion that may be closed over the coming months. The largest include the sale of around €11 billion in assets from Sabadell (of which €900 million has already been sold to Axactor), whose sale is scheduled for this month.

To these figures another €30 billion gross may be added from the sale of a Sareb portfolio this year if Pedro Sánchez’s Government approves that potential operation in the end. Santander has also put up for sale another €6 billion.

Original story: Cinco Días (by Ángeles Gonzalo Alconada)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Sareb Analyses Goldman’s Report on the Sale of €20Bn of its Property

6 July 2018 – Voz Pópuli

One of the discussion points at the most recent meeting of Sareb’s Board of Directors, which took place this week, was Operation Alpha. The deal involves the sale of assets – non-performing loans, to be specific – with a gross value of around €20 billion (initially they were valued at €30 billion). This is the largest operation to be considered by the semi-public body since its creation, in 2012, and for this end, it has engaged Goldman Sachs.

The large international investment funds, such as Cerberus and Blackstone, are waiting for Sareb to decide whether to divest the portfolio before they put offers amounting to several billions of euros on the table. But the company in which the Frob holds stake, with almost 46% of its share capital, is taking its time.

According to sources close to the company chaired by Jaime Echegoyen, at that most recent meeting of Sareb’s board, Goldman Sachs reported on the progress of the report that it is preparing about Operation Alpha, which the Spanish entity will analyse when it comes to deciding whether to go ahead with the sale or not. When the US investment bank has finalised its report, Sareb’s Board of Directors will take a decision in this regard. “Goldman Sachs is still working on the report (…)”, they say.

“For Sareb”, explain the sources consulted, “the operation will generate losses regardless; the assets are over-valued, overpaid, and will definitely have to be sold at a discount”. Sareb is very aware that the moment “is ripe for a sale of this kind, given the appetite shown by the large investment funds”, but Operation Alpha may mean that the semi-public company will have to recognise such large losses that its own viability could be jeopardised.

For these reasons, Goldman Sachs is likely to suggest alternatives to carrying out the sale. One possibility, amongst others, is that Sareb could continue as a shareholder of the sold portfolio and that the fund that acquires the portfolio also takes responsibility for formalising the platform through which the assets will be sold or managed, in other words, the servicer. The sources consulted cite the sale of Popular’s real estate assets to Santander and Blackstone by way of example.

The assets in Operation Alpha basically correspond to the portfolio of non-performing loans whose management was granted by Sareb to Haya Real Estate, owned by the fund Cerberus, in 2014. That management contract is due to terminate in December 2019, and Sareb may organise a new tender or choose to renew it.

For Cerberus, it is key that Haya Real Estate renews its position as the manager of these assets ahead of the platform’s stock market debut, which the fund has delayed until the end of this year or the beginning of 2019; moreover, Cerberus may grow the portfolio managed by Haya if it manages to acquire Operation Alpha, and whereby debut a larger company on the stock market.

Sources close to the investment funds and Spanish banks consider that Sareb has suspended all of its major sales operations, including Alpha, due to the recent change of Government. “Operation Alpha may or may not go ahead, but the decision in that regard will be taken on the basis of the conclusions drawn by the Goldman Sachs report and upon the votes taken by the Board of Directors”, say sources close to Sareb.

Audit and public property

Although from the outside, Sareb is trying to remain completely calm in the face of the change in Government, sources close to the body, as well as others linked to the banks and investment funds, agree that, right now, there is concern about the possibility that a hasty political decision would complicate the work performed to date (…).

The party led by Pedro Sánchez has proposed carrying out an audit of Sareb. According to the sources consulted, that doesn’t make much sense when all of the focus possible has already been placed on the entity. The special shareholder composition of Sareb and the public interest associated with its activity mean that it is subject to supervision and analysis by the Bank of Spain, the Spanish National Securities and Market Commission and the European Central Bank, amongst others (…).

Original story: Voz Pópuli (by Alberto Ortín)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Pressure from the ECB Forces Spain’s Banks to Market €40bn in Problem Real Estate

19 June 2018 – El Mundo

The extension of zero interest rates until “at least” next summer, as announced by the European Central Bank, has led Spain’s financial institutions to conclude that they can wait no longer for an improvement in economic conditions to divest their delinquent loans. At the moment, the main Spanish banks have problem assets worth more than €40 billion up for sale in the wholesale market.

The buyers in this market are large investment funds, which value the assets at prices below their nominal values. For the banks, this difference means, on the one hand, that they definitively loose 100% of the investment that they made and, on the other hand, that they can release the provisions for at least half of those losses. The ECB does not want the entities to speculate with these assets on their balance sheets and for that reason, it is forcing their sale.

In this way, last week, Cajamar liquidated its Galeon Project comprising €308 million in debt and yesterday, it was BBVA who divested another portfolio, called Sintra, comprising €1 billion in property developer loans for finished homes in Andalucía, Madrid, Valencia and Cataluña.

The CEO of BBVA, Carlos Torres, said that with this operation, he considers the chapter of accumulated delinquent debt on its balance sheet as a result of the real estate bubble to be “closed”. Since December 2016, the entity has cut its gross exposure to the real estate sector by approximately €20 billion.

Another entity that has placed portfolios of loans and foreclosed properties on the market is Liberbank, with a €250 million portfolio of foreclosed properties, which it has eloquently baptised Bolt. Other entities that are close to signing agreements include Banco Santander, with €500 million in debt on the verge of being placed and another €400 million on the market, and Banco Sabadell, one of the most active entities in the sale of doubtful assets this year, which is finalising the sale of €900 million in defaulted loans.

The bank headquartered in Alicante has two other large portfolios up for sale, although in that case they are foreclosed properties with a combined value of €8 billion, which proceed from both its own activity, as well as from the activity it took over following the purchase of Caja de Ahorros del Mediterráneo (CAM). If the group chaired by Josep Oliú closes the sale of all of these portfolios, it will have reduced its exposure amounting to more than €14 billion to less than €5 billion.

In the market for the large funds that purchase these assets, there are also offers from CaixaBank (€800 million in defaulted loans in a portfolio called Agora) and Bankia, which is selling €650 million in doubtful loans and preparing another one worth €1 billion.

The largest operation of all is by far the one involving Sareb, called Alfa, which involves placing on the market assets with a nominal value of €30 billion. The public-private company is sounding out the definitive price that the funds would be willing to pay before it decides whether to keep it up for sale.

Original story: El Mundo (by César Urrutia)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Santander & Blackstone Hold Onto the Real Estate Company GAC40

18 May 2018 – Voz Pópuli

Project Quasar Investment, the company created by Santander and Blackstone to bring together Banco Popular’s real estate assets worth €30 billion, has absorbed the company ‘Gestión de Activos Castellana 40’ (GAC40), whose debt amounting to €220 million Popular forgave on 30 December 2014, a move that caught the attention of the European Central Bank.

According to sources familiar with the operation, GAC40 filed for creditor pre-bankruptcy after it found itself in the cause of dissolution, but that measure was cancelled after the formal agreement was reached to transfer Popular’s assets to Project Quasar Investment in March. Sources consulted describe the operation as a “bargain”, given that Santander and Blackstone have effectively acquired GAC40’s assets at a discount of almost 69% and without the burdens that was weighing it down.

The Hispania Buildings in the centres of Murcia and Alicante are just two of the assets owned by GAC40. The company also owns the following shopping centres: La Fuensanta in Móstoles (Madrid); Juan de Borbón (Murcia); and Hispania, in Orihuela. Moreover, it has one supermarket in Totana (Murcia) and another one in Vinarós (Castellón), as well as a hotel in Cartagena. Although most of the properties are occupied, the mortgage charges that had been hanging over them since the real estate boom meant that their sale was unfeasible, according to the sources consulted.

The properties form part of Grupo Hispania, which the businessman Trinitario Casanova, the same person who agreed the sale of Edificio España in Madrid to the Riu group last year, sold in 2008 to José Ramón Carabante – the former shareholder of real estate companies from the boom and the founder of the only Spanish team to have operated in the Formula 1 arena, Hispania – for €650 million.

Carabante abandoned the management of Grupo Hispania in 2011 and was replaced by José Fernando Martínez Blanco, an expert in the liquidation and restructuring of companies. According to the sources consulted, Martínez Blanco was appointed by Banco Popular to acquire Carabante’s companies.

Martínez Blanco changed the registered name of the companies acquired from Carabante to ‘Gestión de Activos Castellana 40’ (GAC40) in 2012. The firm was weighed down by a debt amounting to €562.5 million, with Banco Popular as the main creditor. Until the absorption of GAC40 by Santander and Blackstone, Martínez Blanco had continued as the administrator of the company.

Forgive and refinance

GAC40 has remained active all these years thanks to financial support from Popular, which has been forgiving and refinancing the company’s debt year after year.

On 30 December 2014, Banco Popular’s Board of Directors decided to waive GAC40’s debt. That decision caught the attention of the European Central Bank, which conducted an inspection and identified “deficiencies” in the authorisation of the operation, as this newspaper reported.

The most recent refinancing of GAC40’s debt happened a month after the intervention of Banco Popular and its sale to Santander. On 6 July 2017, the company agreed “as the primary financial creditor”, to “convert the debt into a participation loan amounting to €19.4 million”.

With that debt conversion agreed just a month after Popular’s intervention, GAC40 was able to correct the critical situation that it found itself in. According to the company’s accounts for 2016, to which this newspaper has had access through Insight View, the company was in cause of dissolution with a negative goodwill balance of €221 million and financial debt of almost €250 million.

Original story: Voz Pópuli (by Alberto Ortín)

Translation: Carmel Drake

BBVA Continues to Obtain Juicy Profits from the RE Market

17 April 2018 – Merca2

Bilbao. Gran Vía, 1. One of the most iconic buildings in the Vizcayan capital has been located at that address since 1969. Comprising 21 storeys and measuring 86 m tall, it was the giant of the city until the arrival of Torre Iberdrola. Headquarters, at the time, of Banco de Vizcaya, the entity known nowadays as BBVA has just put the property up for sale. The price? Around €100 million.

This is a new milestone in the process to divest iconic buildings that the entity chaired by Francisco González has been carrying out for several years and which has been generating some juicy profits. This money for the coffers is a godsend for the balance sheet.

Another example, the most recent on the long list, saw the sale of Torre Puig in 2017 to the Catalan perfume group of the same name. That building, which ended up in BBVA’s hands after its acquisition of Catalunya Caixa, was sold for €60 million, at a gain of €30 million.

Also prior to this latest operation on Bilbao’s Gran Vía, which is expected to be closed before the summer, in 2015, BBVA sold the office block known as Torre Ederra in Madrid, located at number 77 Paseo de la Castellana, to Gmp (owned by the Montoro Alemán family and the sovereign fund of Singapore GIC). Spanning 21,000 m2 and spread over 18 floors, BBVA acquired that property in 2003 for €87.5 million from the French group Saint Gobain. The sales price paid by Gmp exceeded €90 million.

BBVA and its €300 million gain

There are several reasons behind BBVA’s decision to divest a series of buildings; some of them have significant value, not only financial but also in terms of their history and architectural beauty.

One of the reasons is to finance the cost of the creation of BBVA City (Ciudad BBVA). The new headquarters, popularly known as La Vela due to its most iconic tower, also comprises another seven horizontal buildings. It cost around €700 million to build and was constructed to reduce by one third the operating cost of having around 6,500 employees spread across a dozen properties, amongst other reasons.

Another building that was sold, for example, was the work of the architect Francisco Javier Saénz de Oiza. Constructed at number 81 Paseo de la Castellana, measuring 100 m tall, and spanning more than 49,000 m2 over 30 storeys, that property was sold in 2007, also to the real estate group Gmp.

That same year, BBVA reduced its portfolio further by placing other buildings in Madrid on the market, such as those located on Calle Goya 14, Calle Alcalá 16 and on Gran Vía de Hortaleza. In total, more than 108,000 m2 of space was sold, which saw these last four buildings generate gains of €300 million for the entity chaired by González (…).

Another operation that was different was BBVA’s sale, at the end of 2017, of its real estate division to the fund Cerberus Capital for around €4 billion. That deal was carried out at a discount of 61%: the gross book value of the 78,000 real estate assets that form part of the deal is €13 billion.

In this case, the operation involved divesting the bank’s exposure to property, in part “imposed” or “recommended” by the Single Supervisory Mechanism (SSM) of the European Central Bank (…).

Which assets are being spared? So far, the former headquarters of Argentaria, located on Paseo de Recoletos in Madrid, which currently houses the headquarters of Fundación BBVA. For the time being, no “for sale” sign has been put up there. But it could only be a matter of time.

Original story: Merca2 (by Valentín Bustos)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Axis: Spain’s Banks Have €31.7bn in Toxic Assets Up For Sale

15 March 2018 – Eje Prime

After a 2017 in which one of the key characteristics of the residential market was the interest from funds in going to banks for property, this year, the trend is set to increase. The investment funds are now being joined by Socimis, which want to take advantage of the rapid and generous divestments that the banks are undertaking of their real estate portfolios.

Pressure from the European Central Bank (ECB) for the financial entities to clean up their balance sheets has meant that they have been rushing, for the last year and a half, to sell almost all of their portfolios of assets and non-performing loans relating to the real estate sector. According to data from the consultancy firm Axis, the banks currently have €31.7 billion in toxic assets up for sale.

This large sum of portfolios up for sale is proving to be the subject of major battles between the main investment funds, the majority of which are international, and which in 2017 managed to close record operations in this sense. The sale by Santander of property inherited from Popular to Blackstone for €10 billion, and the agreement reached between BBVA and the fund Cerberus for €4 billion to transfer assets from the real estate firm Anida, fired the starting gun for a race that is going to reach its cruising speed this year, according to Cinco Días.

Spain is the third country in the Eurozone by volume of doubtful loans, with €136 billion and a default rate of 5.7%, a percentage that is above the European average of 5.1%. According to the Bank of Spain, non-performing loans held by the banks at the end of 2016 amounted to €190 billion.

The oligopoly of the servicers 

Axis details that the assets of the banks under the management of the servicers are no longer going to be a question of five, since some of the players may come out of the equation. In 2018, “there will be a greater concentration in the market, with the sale of some of the servicers”, according to the study.

Until now, 80% of the portfolios have been managed by the banks and funds, as demonstrated in the cases of Altamira, which is controlled by Banco Santander; Haya and Anida, companies that are both linked to Cerberus; Anticipa and Aliseda, which are both owned by Blackstone; and Servihabitat and Solvia, which are owned by CaixaBank and Banco Sabadell, respectively.

In addition to the aforementioned funds, Axis adds others with a presence in the Spanish market such as Lone Star, Oaktree, Deutsche Bank and Fortress, which will try to acquire one or more of the portfolios for sale.

Funds and Socimis are going to be searching to generate returns this year, above all, in the rental market, which with yields of 8% “is going to be the product with the most attractive investment prospects”, according to Axis.

Original story: Eje Prime

Translation: Carmel Drake

BBVA & Sabadell Hold Delicate Negotiations with the FGD to Sell Their Assets

5 February 2018 – Expansión

BBVA and Sabadell want to remove from their balance sheets the damaged real estate assets that they still own as a result of their acquisitions of Unnim and CAM, respectively. Those assets, which have a book value of around €16 billion in total, are temporarily protected by an Asset Protection Scheme (EPA), which, was granted at the time by the Deposit Guarantee Fund (FGD) so that the two banks would take on the business of the former savings banks, which had filed for bankruptcy. The negotiations that the two banks are now holding with the FGD share significant difficulties that cannot be solved easily, although they also have notable differences.

The European Central Bank has been putting pressure on the supervised entities to remove any damaged assets that they still own from their balance sheets, as soon as possible, because it understands that their maintenance reduces the banks’ ability to make profits and lets the doubts continue to hang over the real health of the entities. Now that the ECB considers that the worst of the crisis is over and that the banks are reasonably capitalised, it wants to clear up all the doubts. He has granted a period of five years for these problems to be resolved, although, in reality, it wants them to be sorted in a shorter timeframe: within three years.

When it acquired Popular, Santander launched a procedure to remove all of the real estate assets of its subsidiary from the balance sheet, by reaching an agreement with Blackstone to create a mixed company, in which the US fund holds the majority stake and where Santander has parked assets with a theoretical value of €30 billion. Liberbank has done the same, for a much small sum, retaining just 10% of the capital in its new company.

Meanwhile, BBVA has reached an agreement with Cerberus to transfer €13 billion to a company in which the bank will hold a 20% stake. Of those assets, a significant part, around €4 billion, correspond to assets proceeding from Unnim, which have a guarantee from the FGD for 80% of the losses that may be incurred at the time of their sale.

Meanwhile, Sabadell wants to divest assets worth €12 billion, which sit in a portfolio that is still subject to an EPA that will end in 2021, with the same guarantees as BBVA’s. The difference in the size of the two portfolios is clear.

That is where the problem arises. To close the operation, the FGD needs to accept that it will assume the losses incurred at the time of the sales. And even though its resources have been contributed exclusively by the financial institutions themselves, the public body does not have sufficient funds to assume those losses and whereby avoid grounds for dissolution.

Differences

In reality, the portfolio proceeding from Unnim does not cause excessive problems for several reasons. Firstly, it is smaller and, therefore, the loss to be assumed is considerably reduced. Moreover, according to sources in the know, the FGD has already recognised a coverage for those assets that is pretty close to the market value at which they could be sold (…).

The case of Sabadell, however, is different because the size of its protected portfolio is much larger. It started off at €22 billion and now amounts to just over half, around €12 billion. Sabadell considers that the real value of its assets is approximately half their theoretical value (…) but the FGD (…) maintains that the provisioning need is much lower, around 35% of the book value of those assets.

The difference in criteria between the two parties is important. In figures, it means that there is almost €1.8 billion that separates them and that, of that amount, if it is confirmed in the end, the FGD would have to assume almost €1.5 billion. That would be impossible in the current conditions, because it would mean that the body that guarantees the deposits of banking clients up to €100,000, would have to declare itself bankrupt or, as it has done on other occasions, impose an extraordinary surcharge on its shareholders, domestic entities, to balance its accounts and cover the hole (…).

A solution

But, on the other hand, the FGD is also interested in closing the chapter on asset protection schemes as soon as possible because, until that happens, it will be very difficult to progress with the construction of a European deposit guarantee fund, which is the third leg of the banking union. Indeed, it is not being built precisely because of reluctance being shown by the countries in the north to assume the problems of the past (…).

For this reason, sources close to the conversations confirm that they are now focusing on a possible solution that goes beyond the current moment. The FGD may be interested in reaching an agreement that would entail the possibility of accounting for the losses not in a single year, but rather over a longer period of time, possibly three years. The next few weeks are important because the authorities want to close the conversations before the end of the month.

Original story: Expansión (by Salvador Arancibia)

Translation: Carmel Drake