13 November 2017 – Voz Pópuli
The largest operation of the home stretch of 2017 is pushing ahead. BBVA and Cerberus are close to reaching an agreement regarding the sale of a large proportion of the bank’s real estate assets to the US fund. Financial sources consulted by Vozpópuli indicate that a deal may be signed within the next few weeks, between late November and early December.
One of the points still being discussed is the perimeter (of the transaction). The sources consulted indicate that what is on the table is the option of selling a stake in a new company with assets and loans worth €14,000 million.
The same sources add that an agreement could have already been reached if it hadn’t been for the crisis in Cataluña and the need for the Deposit Guarantee Fund (‘Fondo de Garantía de Depósitos’ or FGD) to give its approval. BBVA received an asset protection scheme (‘Esquema de protección de activos’ or EPA) for which the FGD committed to cover “80% of the losses resulting from a portfolio of assets worth €7,359.7 million”.
BBVA has real estate exposure on its balance sheet amounting to €17,774 million in total, according to the most recent figures. Of that figure, foreclosed assets (€11,937 million) and doubtful loans (€3,357 million) account for €15,300 million. Those loans and properties have a coverage ratio of more than 61%. For this reason, BBVA could sell them for 39% of their appraisal value without having to recognise any losses. Even so, the FGD would still need to approve any deal.
The need for consent from the FGD could delay any asset sale for several months. That is what has happened, on more than one occasion, to Banco Sabadell, such as with Project Normandy. It is worth remembering that the FGD’s Management Committee comprises not only regulators and Government members but also bankers, who do not want to spend even one more euro of their resources (…).
Although BBVA’s sale (known as Project Marina and Sena) is on track, the sources consulted indicate that it could all be thrown up in the air at any moment. “It would not be the first time that an operation that has almost been finalised dies off because of one of BBVA’s management committees or Board of Director meetings”, they say. The same thing is happening with Cerberus, one of the most inflexible funds when it comes to price: “Once the price has been fixed, it is very difficult to move it or play with counter-offers”, they add.
This operation has generated a lot of commotion amongst other opportunistic funds, many of whom were not invited to participate, and who have even indicated their displeasure to BBVA’s leaders. The negotiations between Cerberus and the bank arose after the fund’s President, John W. Snow (former US Treasury Secretary) cracked the whip over his own management team in Spain. He did so after Cerberus missed out on the sale of Popular’s real estate, which was awarded to Blackstone.
Snow himself decided to come to Madrid in person to meet with the President of BBVA, Francisco González (pictured above) and propose an operation similar in size to Project Quasar (Popular). Indeed, Cerberus purchased a €600 million portfolio from the bank in June, Project Jaipur, which gave rise to the current negotiations.
Although the operation still hangs in the balance, BBVA has never been as close to sealing an agreement like this one. There is a lot of optimism amongst the advisors to the operation, PwC and Linklaters. But, for the time being, anything can happen.
Original story: Voz Pópuli (by Jorge Zuloaga)
Translation: Carmel Drake