The FROB Recorded a €382M Provision Against its Stake in Sareb in 2018

20 May 2019 – El Confidencial

The Spanish Fund for Orderly Banking Restructuring (FROB) presented its accounts for 2018 this week revealing that it decided to recognise a €382 million provision against its stake in Sareb last year.

In this way, the FROB has now written off 92.3% of its initial investment in the entity chaired by Jaime Echegoyen (pictured above), up from 75% in 2017. If the rest of the investor entities, namely all of the large Spanish banks with the exception of BBVA, do the same, then they will have to recognise losses of around €450 million.

In absolute terms, the FROB’s stake in Sareb is now worth €169 million compared with its initial investment of €2.192 billion. The FROB is Sareb’s largest shareholder with a 45.9% stake, followed by Santander (22.3%), CaixaBank (12.2%), Sabadell (6.6%) and Kutxabank (2.5%).

As the bad bank’s largest shareholder, the FROB typically sets the tone of the provisions for the other entities. Last year, after the FROB increased its cumulative provision to 75%, other shareholders such as CaixaBank and Sabadell recognised extraordinary provisions in their accounts for Q2. This year, the average provisioning rate is expected to increase from around 70% to 90%.

Sareb closed 2018 with losses of €878 million (up by 55%) due to the strong competition in the institutional market and the real estate crisis that still affects much of the country. The bad bank sold 21,152 properties last year and its income from property management soared by 19% to €1.4 billion, but its income from the loan portfolio fell by 16% to €2.2 billion and so total income fell by 5% to €3.7 billion.

The outlook for the bad bank for the next few years is not great and many experts forecast that not even a single euro will be recovered from Sareb.

Original story: El Confidencial (by Jorge Zuloaga)

Translation/Summary: Carmel Drake

Sareb is Selling 33 Homes Per Day but still has 55,000 Properties on its Books

12 September 2018 – Expansión

Sareb managed to sell 5,926 properties during the first half of 2018, up by 7% YoY, for a total sum of €552.7 million. In other words, 33 units per day. Of the total, 86% of the properties were homes and garages, 9% were plots of land and 5% were commercial premises.

For the last four years, the bad bank has been helping delinquent property developers to market the properties that they placed as collateral for their loans to allow them to use those funds to settle their debts. Through that channel, it has sold another 4,692 units.

If this pace continues during the second half of 2018, the entity will exceed the sales figure registered in 2017 when 18,925 units were sold and a new record was set.

The bad bank was created with 107,000 properties and during its first five years of life, it has managed to divest 68,300 units. Nevertheless, we must bear in mind that Sareb has executed the guarantee for some of the 90,000 loans that it also took on when it started out and so that has led to an increase in the number of properties on its balance sheet.

Currently, the bad bank still has 55,000 homes and 34,000 garages and storerooms left to liquidate. Sareb is the largest owner of residential homes in Spain and the largest landowner in several autonomous regions, such as Castilla-La Mancha.

During the first half of this year, Sareb recorded revenues of €2.8 million in a special land sale campaign and another €13 million from the sale of other plots. It put 500 units on the market in each case. The managers are looking for a partner to build developments on the land.

Contracts under review

The senior management team at the bad bank is considering tearing up the expensive and exclusive contracts that the entity has with four specialists (Haya, Solvia, Altamira and Servihabitat), which cost it more than €200 million per year, equivalent to 35% of its operating costs.

Sareb lost €565 million last year and since its creation, has generated cumulative losses of €1.315 billion. In reality, the operating result is now positive. Nevertheless, the financial charges are so high – it had to take out a swap to cover itself in the event of an interest rate rise – that they completely determine its income statement.

The senior management team updated Sareb’s business plan in February, which forced the shareholders to recognise new write-downs. The review resulted in the recognition of a loss equivalent to 73% of the initial investment, which amounted to €4.8 billion.

Recently, the entity’s President, Jaime Echegoyen (pictured above) went further and warned that he thinks the shareholders will “struggle” to recover their investments.

Sareb has ten years left to liquidate all of its real estate stock. In reality, it is committed to returning the €37 billion in bonds secured by the State that it used to pay for the assets of the rescued savings banks.

The largest shareholder, the FROB, with 45.9% of the share capital, lost €950 million last year due primarily to the impairment of Sareb’s accounts due to its poor performance. The banks have also been forced to make significant adjustments. Sabadell, which has published its data, confirmed that its investment has generated an accounting loss of €321 million in five years.

The Minister for the Economy, Nadia Calviño, said yesterday, during her speech at a breakfast meeting organised by the New Economy Forum, that “for the time being, the Government is supporting Sareb’s strategic plan”. Nevertheless, she reminded listeners that the Administration is an important partner that participates actively in decision-making, “but it is not the only one”. 54% of the entity’s share capital is private.

Original story: Expansión (by Raquel Lander)

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

Sareb Quarantines its €30bn Mega-Portfolio Entrusted to Goldmans For The Time Being

11 June 2018 – El Confidencial

The most important operation in Sareb’s history is going to have to wait. Despite the wishes of Goldman Sachs, the bank charged with leading the sale of €30 million in toxic assets, to formally launch the process before the end of June, the entity chaired by Jaime Echegoyen would rather be cautious and have everything locked down, and well locked down, before it gives the final green light to an operation of this magnitude.

Particularly, when its largest shareholders, the State through the FROB, has just experienced an unexpected change of Government. Although sources at Sareb insist that a firm date has not yet been set for this sale and that all of the work carried out to date has been preliminary, during the conversations that Goldmans held with interested funds before the vote of no confidence (in the Spanish parliament), it was understood that the process would begin this month, according to several sources in the know.

Nevertheless, the change in the political panorama, which has resulted in Pedro Sánchez’s appointment as President and Nadia Calviño as the Minister for the Economy, lends itself to prudence, to avoiding any rushed decisions and to allowing time for the new Government to analyse this operation. Above all, when one of the objectives of the PSOE’s economics team has, for months, been to conduct a thorough audit of Sareb to understand the real extent of the public debt as a whole, according to Voz Pópuli.

The sale of the portfolio entrusted to Goldman would allow Sareb to decimate its liabilities in one fell swoop and generate two years worth of revenues in a single operation. The question is at what cost, in other words, what losses would such a divestment generate, given that all of these sales are being undertaken at discounts that the bad bank is finding very difficult to bear.

In fact, in order to play in this league of major operations, Sareb has been analysing for months all kinds of formulae to reduce its losses. One way of mitigating the losses and achieving better offers is to share the ownership of the capital of the new company to which these toxic assets would be transferred, like Santander and BBVA have done in similar cases.

Another lever that has already been analysed is to take advantage of the FAB (Banking Assets Fund) – that Sareb created in its early stages, because that would provide the operation with tax incentives, or associate it with the servicing contract, which has been in the hands of Haya until now.

That “servicer”, which is controlled by Cerberus, manages all of the toxic property that Bankia transferred to Sareb, whose deficit was the largest, in absolute numbers, of the bank rescue, another important argument why the new Government wants to understand in detail the design and consequences of the Goldman operation before giving it the green light, or not.

What is happening with Ebro and the property development plans?

(…) In terms of the entity’s other two star projects: the search for a partner to promote €800 million in residential assets and the sale of a €10 billion portfolio baptised Ebro.

The former has two finalists, Aelca and Aedas, and looks to be on schedule for a winner to be selected ahead of the summer (…).

In the case of Ebro, Sareb’s decision to not go ahead with this portfolio responds to, amongst other reasons, the fact that some of the perimeter proceeded from Haya assets, which are the ones that make up the entire Goldman portfolio, and so a decision was taken to desist from this project to give priority to the Goldman deal.

Original story: El Confidencial (by Ruth Ugalde)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Sareb Still Faces Challenges Five Years After its Creation

27 February 2018 – Expansión

The bad bank was created with 200,000 toxic assets worth €50.8 billion, inherited from the rescued savings banks. In five years, it has divested 27% of that encumbrance. It has another ten years left to liquidate its remaining stock.

Just over five years ago, Sareb (…) was launched. The creation of the bad bank was made possible thanks to the participation of European funds in the bank rescue and the solidarity of the financial system, which had the capacity to resist the crisis and contribute its grain of sand to the process.

Sareb was created with private capital majority (contributed by the banks, with the exception of BBVA, which refused to participate, as well as insurance companies and a handful of real estate companies) and the remainder was provided by the State through the Frob, in such a way that any equity imbalances and losses that the new company would incur would not be accounted for in the public deficit (…).

The last five years have not exactly been a walk in the park for Sareb (…). Nevertheless, it has generated revenues from the sale of assets amounting to €12.9 billion, which have allowed it to cover its expenses, which, in addition to the cost of its 400 employees, involve: the payment of commissions to intermediary companies (€1.1 billion); the payment of interest (€4.0 billion (…)); taxes (€790 million (…)) and more than €400 million in maintenance costs and service charge payments.

The bad bank’s revenues proceed from the sale of its assets, whose composition has changed considerably since its creation. Currently, Sareb owns almost the same number of properties as it had at the beginning, but after having sold almost 65,000 assets. That is because some of the loans that were transferred to Sareb upon its creation have now been converted into properties through the execution of the guarantees that they secured. In this way, properties now account for 32% of the company’s total asset value, whilst the weight of loans has decreased from 80% to its current level of 68%. The entity’s assets have decreased by 27% to reach €36.9 billion and the debt issued by Sareb, which is guaranteed by the State, currently stands at €37.9 billion, down by 25%.

The company has generated positive margins during the course of its life, although it has only ever recorded losses. In 2016, the most recent period for which figures are available, its losses amounted to €663 million and, although its results for 2017 have not been published yet, the losses are expected to be similar. Reality has imposed itself on the initial business plans. Today, both the entity’s President, Jaime Echegoyen, and the company’s shareholders, understand that one possible objective would be for the entity to be liquidated within 10 years without having needed any new capital contributions and for some of the investment to be recovered, around 60%, with the remaining 40% having to be written off.

The President of Sareb understands that the company is fulfilling the basic purpose for which it was created, albeit with difficulties: the sale of damaged assets from the entities that received public aid, because, it does not have any other levers that would allow it to offset the possible losses that it would incur if it accelerated its sales.

Sareb only generates revenues from the sale of its assets and that is forcing it to adjust its sales prices a lot more so as not to incur losses. In this regard, it is totally different from the other financial institutions, for whom the damaged real estate assets account for only part of their balance sheets and, therefore, they can divest them at lower prices, since they receive other revenues that generate sufficient margins for them.

Original story: Expansión (by Salvador Arancibia)

Translation: Carmel Drake

The FROB Engages Intermoney Valora to Revalue Former CX Assets

5 February 2018 – Expansión

The Spanish Fund for Orderly Banking Restructuring (FROB) has engaged the financial consultancy firm Intermoney Valora to carry out a “valuation service for certain assets in the framework of the process to wind up Catalunya Banc (CX)”.

Sources familiar with the process indicate that this project stems from the process to privatise the former Catalan savings bank, which was nationalised by the FROB in 2012. In accordance with the design of the divestment at the time, the banking business was transferred in its entirety to BBVA, whilst the real estate business (known as the Hercules portfolio) was acquired by the fund Blackstone.

Those same sources indicate that at the time, a small percentage of the assets that should have been transferred to Blackstone, remained under the umbrella of BBVA for technical reasons and could not be transferred. “That has generated what is known as compensable damage, which was anticipated for in the sales contract and, therefore, had been provisioned”, they add.

The role of Intermoney Valora will be to estimate the economic value today of that small percentage of assets pending transfer to Blackstone, so that the indemnities can be calculated.

According to details specified on the Frob’s public contracting page, Intermoney (which competed with five other firms) will receive €130,000 for this assignment and will have two months (extendable for up to one more) to carry out the work.

Last week, the President of BBVA, Francisco González, admitted that he would not have bought CX today. “We are delighted to have purchased savings banks but that was five years ago. Would we buy CX today? Probably not”, he said.

Original story: Expansión (by N. Sarriés)

Translation: Carmel Drake

UBS Finalises Purchase of Torre Titán from España-Duero for €50M

29 December 2017 – Voz Pópuli

UBS is on the verge of closing one of the largest real estate operations of this year-end. The Swiss entity is negotiating the purchase of one of the two Titán towers, owned by Banco Ceiss (España-Duero), a subsidiary of Unicaja. The sale is in its final phase and could be closed within the next few days, for more than €50 million, according to financial sources consulted by Vozpópuli.

The final consideration may even reach €55 million, which is exactly the price that España-Duero paid Nozar for the tower in 2008. That acquisition caused a great deal of controversy at the time to the point that some of the former directors of Caja Duero were subjected to investigations, but the case was archived in the end.

The Titán towers are two 13-storey buildings constructed by Nozar in 2008. One of them is owned by Invesco (which acquired it in 2011 for €40 million) and leased to the state-owned firm Adif. The other one is owned by España-Duero and it not only houses the headquarters of Unicaja’s subsidiary but is also home to Nozar and Enagás.

Ceiss continues

This process has been led by Irea, according to El Economista, and two other consultancy firms, Knight Frank and Aguirre Newman, have also been involved, in the search for tenants for the 30,000 m2 of available space. The useful surface area for offices is 10,722 m2.

According to sources close to the operation, España-Duero is expected to commit to continue to occupy the offices. The entity is in the middle of a merger with Unicaja, after the Malagan entity acquired the 12.5% stake that it did not own in the subsidiary from the Frob.

During the IPO in the middle of this year, the heads of Unicaja expressed their intention to merge the two companies (Unicaja and Banco Ceiss). As such, observers in the market speculate that Torre Titán will serve as the new headquarters for the central services team in Madrid.

The sale of Torre Titán will be added to the list of divestments that the Unicaja Banco group has been carrying out in recent weeks. Earlier this month, it sold a portfolio of foreclosed assets to the fund Axactor, as this newspaper revealed.

Original story: Voz Pópuli (by Jorge Zuloaga)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Sareb Sold 13,796 Properties Between Jan & Sept, Up By 55% YoY

15 November 2017 – Expansión

Yesterday, the bad bank reported updated figures for its commercial business. Between January and September, it sold 13,796 properties, up by 55% compared to the same period last year, boosted by commercial campaigns and the change in the real estate cycle. These figures imply a drop in the growth rate compared to the previous quarter, most likely influenced by the lower activity typically seen in August. Note, the data relates to the first 9 months of the year until 30 September and therefore does not reflect the suspension of real estate activity in Cataluña since that date.

The sale of residential properties grew by 50% YoY, whilst the sale of warehouses, retail premises, hotels and offices rose by 99%. The bad bank also sold 710 plots of land, up by 31% compared to the previous year.

Sareb is also involved in property development activity. This year, the company has sold eleven developments that it received when they were unfinished.

The bad bank’s total revenues grew by 3.6% during the 9 months to September – after increasing by 21% during the first 6 months of the year – to €2,394 million.

Sareb has never made any money. Its cumulative losses amount to €781 million. Since its creation, it has reduced its toxic asset balance by 23% and has repaid 19% of the debt it issued initially.

Renewal of the board

Sareb is going to subject the renewal of its Board of Directors to the General Shareholders Meeting for approval. The former minister and former President of Endesa, Rodolfo Martín Villa, who represents the Frob, will depart for reasons of age. He will be substituted by Eduardo Aguilar, former CEO of Seguros. The representative of Popular will resign from the board to make way for Jaime Rodríguez Andrade, Director General of Problem assets, restructurings and corporate investments at Santander. And the representatives of CaixaBank will be replaced: Jorge Mondéjar and Antonio Cayuela will take over from José Ramón Montserrat and Antonio Massanell.

Original story: Expansión

Translation: Carmel Drake

Ibercaja Sells 505 Property Developer Loans For €489M

10 July 2017 – El Periódico

On Friday, Ibercaja announced a sales operation that will allow it to significantly clean up its toxic assets. Specifically, the bank has completed the sale of 505 property developer loans and credits – most of which relate to “doubtful” assets” – amounting to €489 million. The size of this portfolio represents a decrease of 36% in terms of the total number of doubtful property developer loans that the entity held as a March 2017.

In this operation, known as Fleta, 43% of the portfolio comprises loans granted to finance land purchases, which represents “the highest percentage of such loans in an operation of this kind recorded in Spain to date”, said sources at the Aragon entity on Friday.

Moreover, the deal allows Ibercaja to bring its default rate below 8%, a figure that forms part of the strategy to optimise its balance sheet and provide a commercial boost, established in the entity’s strategic plan for 2015-2017.

Since the end of 2014, the year when the aforementioned plan was launched, the volume of doubtful loans has decreased by €1,103 million, in other words, to 57% of the initial volume.

The portfolio has been sold to the company Fleta Issuer Holdings Designated Activity Company, after a process in which “first-rate” domestic and international investors have participated “which reflects the interest received for the offer in the market”, said the bank.

On the other hand, Ibercaja has increased the financing of new real estate projects. In 2016, it tripled the number of homes it financed with respect to 2014. During those three years, it financed 150 new projects, most of which are located in Madrid, Barcelona and Zaragoza.

That milestone, add sources at Ibercaja, followed others that have been fulfilled in accordance with the strategic plan, which “is reinforcing the financial strength of the entity, driving the transformation of the business model and activating the geographical growth plans for the retail business”.

Financial operations

In March of this year, the entity considered the early repayment of all of the contingent convertible bonds (CoCos) issued by Caja 3 and subscribed by the FROB in 2013, amounting to €223 million.

Moreover, last October, the entity placed an issue of 7-year mortgage bonds amounting to €500 million on the capital markets. In July 2015, Ibercaja was the first unlisted entity to issue subordinated debt, amounting to €500 million with a 10-year term, since the start of the restructuring of the Spanish financial system.

A few months later, in October 2015, the bank closed an operation similar to Project Fleta, when it sold a portfolio of 428 property developer loans, mostly doubtful, for €698 million, in an operation known as Goya.

Original story: El Periódico

Translation: Carmel Drake

Sareb’s Investors Will Lose 30% Of Their Investment

7 April 2017 – Expansión

Sareb, the bad bank that took over most of the toxic real estate assets from the banks intervened by the State through the Frob, announced a substantial modification to its business plan last week. The change represents an acknowledgement of the fact that, at the end of the entity’s life, in 2027, its shareholders will have lost 30% of their initial investment, almost €1,440 million. As such, the shareholders are going to have to recognise provisions for that impairment this year.

The creation of Sareb (which began operating in 2013) was conducted after the State received European aid to clean up the domestic financial system. It was not possible before because the Treasury did not have sufficient funds to do launch the initiative alone.

In an attempt to ensure that the State’s contribution would not add to the public deficit, a procedure was carried out whereby the private banking sector, insurance companies and some real estate companies contributed most of the necessary own funds (55%) and the Frob contributed the remaining 45%. This meant that in total, €4,800 million was contributed, €1,200 million in the form of capital and €3,600 million in the form of subordinated debt, convertible into capital, which would receive a relatively high remuneration if the company were to generate profits.

Sareb obtained the other resources required to pay for the real estate assets acquired from the banks in difficulty, by issuing debt over one, two and three years, which the entities from which the assets had been acquired were obliged to subscribe to and which is now being renewed for equal periods as it matures, but in reducing amount thanks to Sareb’s ability to generate funds to repay it.

All of the private banks, with the exception of BBVA, answered the call of the economic authorities and invested on the basis of their size. Santander put €805 million in the pot; CaixaBank, €581 million; Sabadell, €321 million; Popular, €276 million, and Kutxabank, €122 million. The other entities contributed smaller but no less representative amounts, based on their size.

Initially, the business plan forecast that the entity would become profitable after five years and it was stated that the company would generate an annual return of 14% over the course of its 15-year life. (…).

When the President of the entity, Belén Romana, was replaced by Jaime Echegoyen, that long-term business plan was modified to try to bring it closer to the reality of the problem assets whose orderly exit is complicated and whose profit generating ability is pretty much impossible.

The Ministry of Economy decided that the supervisor of Sareb’s accounts should be the Bank of Spain because the assets had come from financial institutions and because a large part of them were essentially problem loans. The supervisor established some very strict accounting standards regarding provisions (…), which forced the bad bank to register losses from its first year onwards, which reduced the level of capital subscribed by the shareholders by the same proportion. (…).

The evolution of the market and of Sareb itself have meant that, again, a revised business plan is being prepared to reflect the latest reality, which, according to the statement made to shareholders last week, not only completely abandons the plans for Sareb’s owners to obtain any returns from the risk they have borne, but also recognises that the total liquidation of the assets will result in losses of around 30% on the capital and debt invested. In other words, the investors will recover €3,360 million at most and will certainly lose €1,440 million. The Frob stands to lose the most: almost €650 million.

Most, if not all of those who invested in Sareb understood that they were providing a service to the country and that obtaining any returns was very unlikely and that there may be losses at the end of the process. Losses that they would recognise when the time came.

But the situation has now changed. This latest announcement means (….) that the shareholders have no choice but to recognise provisions for the losses announced this year. That means a new effort for the banks, some of which are already very stretched in terms of their provisions for this year.

Original story: Expansión (by Salvador Arancibia)

Translation: Carmel Drake