13 February 2019 – Voz Pópuli
Santander has matched the bid presented by the Reuben brothers for the Ciudad Financiera, in a new attempt to neutralise the offensive by the British investors to acquire its headquarters in Boadilla del Monte (Madrid).
On Tuesday, the bank chaired by Ana Botín presented a preferential acquisition right against the bankruptcy of Marme – the previous owner of the Ciudad Financiera –in the commercial court of Madrid, having set aside €20 million to be able to carry out the acquisition, according to sources familiar with the process. The operation is valued at around €3 billion.
Spain’s largest bank considers that it has the option of resorting to a preferential acquisition right, established in the lease contract for the Ciudad Financiera, signed on 30 December 2008 between Marme and Santander Global Facilities.
Nevertheless, during the bankruptcy process that has resulted in the sale of the Ciudad Financiera, the administration appointed by the judge warned that the aforementioned right could not be exercised in order to “not obstruct the liquidation of the assets any further”.
Judge María Teresa Vázquez Pizarro, from Commercial Court number 9 in Madrid, said that the purpose pursued with the transfer of the Ciudad Financiera determines “that the lessee’s right of preferential acquisition cannot be accepted, given that the interest in the continuity of the business activity prevails over any rights recognised to third parties”.
The deadline for Santander to exercise its preferential acquisition right expires in the middle of this month (…).
Last November, the bankruptcy administration announced that the Reuben brothers had submitted the highest bid for the Ciudad Financiera, exceeding even the offer presented by Santander, a decision ratified this year by the court.
Santander warned that the offer from the British investors – one of the top 100 wealthiest families in the world – should not be accepted, highlighting the corporate network that they had set up for the operation, which includes several companies registered in tax havens.
Moreover, the Spanish bank has agreed the purchase with the main creditor banks of Marme – Caixabank, ING, Natwest Markets (previously The Royal Bank of Scotland), Bayerische Landesbank, and HSH Nordbank- of their debt. Through that, it has managed to obtain the support of those entities for its intentions and they have sent letters to the mercantile court defending the purchase of the Ciudad Financiera by Santander.
The breach of the preferential acquisition right by Marme carries a fine of €500 million, and the retraction of the sale to a third party, according to the terms of the contract signed by Marme and Santander, say the sources consulted.
The same sources indicate that this fine could be supplemented by another penalty amounting to €750 million if the suitability test is not fulfilled; in total, a fine amounting to €1.25 billion that Santander hopes will serve to ensure that the Reuben brothers reconsider their strategy
Original story: Voz Pópuli (by Alberto Ortín)
Translation: Carmel Drake