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

Santander Awards the Management of Popular’s €5bn Portfolio to Blackstone

12 November 2018 – Expansión

Santander and Blackstone have reached an agreement whereby the US fund, through the real estate servicer Aliseda, has taken on the management of a portfolio of assets from Popular amounting to €5 billion, which Santander is retaining on its balance sheet. The portfolio includes real estate assets and loans linked to the retail segment and Santander is retaining ownership of 100% of the assets. They were left out of the transfer of Popular’s assets to Quasar, the joint venture that the bank and Blackstone launched last year.

Santander transferred the bulk of Popular’s damaged portfolio to Quasar (€30 billion gross, linked primarily to property developers), along with 100% of the share capital of Aliseda. Blackstone controls the management of Quasar and 51% of the shares and Santander the remaining 49%. The bank has this stake valued at €1.7 billion on its balance sheet.

“The assets under management have been classified into two different groups, to reflect their owner: the Santander Group portfolio, owned by Popular (and now absorbed by Santander) and the Popular portfolio, owned by Project Quasar 2017”, according to the annual accounts of Aliseda. Specific teams have been configured within the servicer to manage Santander’s assets.

As at June, the latest available disaggregated figures, the entity chaired by Ana Botín still had a portfolio of foreclosed assets amounting to €10.5 billion gross. They have been cleaned with €5.2 billion in provisions (48.9%), which brings their net value to €5.4 billion. Nevertheless, in September, it sold a portfolio of properties worth €1.5 billion to Cerberus. In addition, Santander has loans to property developers amounting to €5.7 billion. Of the total, €1.8 billion are doubtful balances, with a default rate of 32%.

Santander currently has agreements with three servicers (Altamira, Aliseda and Casaktua). It paid those three companies almost €460 million in management commissions last year.

Meanwhile, Aliseda, which is now controlled by Blackstone and Santander, has rescinded the syndicated loan that it signed in 2015. At the time, the funds Värde Partners and Kennedy Wilson owned 51% of the real estate manager’s share capital and Popular owned the remaining 49%.

Following the acquisition of Popular by Santander, the entity chaired by Ana Botón repurchased the 51% stake held by Värde Partners and Kennedy Wilson, as a step prior to the transfer of 100% of Aliseda to Quasar.

“According to the syndicated financing contract subscribed on 27 November 2015, the cancellation of the loan has been formalised, following the repayment of the principal and outstanding interest, and of the cancellation penalty for the overall amount of €266.03 million”, said Aliseda’s report.

The bank with the greatest share of the loan was Popular itself (33.33%), with an outstanding balance of €87.86 million at the end of 2017. Bankia, Santander, Sabadell and Bankinter, with shares of 10%, had outstanding balances of around €25 million each. ING (€24.3 million), Crédit Agricole (€23.3 million) and BBVA (€17.5 million) completed the group of banks in the syndicate.

The interest rate on the loan, conditioned on the debt ratio and the gross result of the company, was six-month Euribor plus a spread of between 2.75% and 3.50%.

Following the change of ownership of Aliseda and its senior management team, the servicer paid compensation for redundancies of €1.4 million last year. It also paid €5.64 million for a remuneration plan that granted certain executives the right to receive remuneration in the event of a change of control of the company.

Original story: Expansión (by M. Martínez)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Solvia Acknowledges That it Will Have to Generate Value from Solvia “Sooner or Later”

27 July 2018 – La Vanguardia

The CEO of Banco Sabadell, Jaime Guardiola, has acknowledged that “sooner or later”, he will have to generate value from Solvia, highlighting the “great job” that the entity has done and how “proud” he feels of the servicer.

That was according to the bank’s most senior executive at the presentation of Sabadell’s half-year results, where he reported that the entity has recorded a net profit of €120.6 million, down by 67.2% compared to the same period a year earlier, due to the provisions recognised as a result of the reduction in problem assets and the migration costs of the platform of TSB, its British subsidiary.

“Solvia not only serves assets on the bank’s books but also those of other clients such as Sareb. Beyond its financial value, it has a great industrial value, with some great professionals with a very different profile from those in the banking sector”, he specified.

In Guardiola’s opinion, Solvia is one of the bank’s entities that has done “a great job”, and so if at any time this value were to be realised and recognised, then selling the asset could become an option, although currently, it contributes in a positive way to Sabadell’s accounts.

Recently, the entity chaired by Josep Oliu disposed of four portfolios comprising problem assets with a gross value of €12.2 billion, which were awarded to the funds Axactor, Cerberus and Deutsche Bank, together with Carval.

The day on which it announced the sale of the largest batch of assets, worth €9.1 billion, Sabadell reassured the market that Solvia would continue to form a critical part of the bank and would continue to provide integral management services of the real estate assets subject to the operation on an exclusive basis.

Original story: La Vanguardia 

Translation: Carmel Drake

Sabadell Sacrifices Profits to Clean Up its Balance Sheet & Resolve the TSB Crisis

27 July 2018 – Expansión

Banco Sabadell has decided to sacrifice all of the profit that it obtained in the last quarter to clean up its balance sheet and leave behind the impact of the sale of its real estate portfolios and the complex IT integration of TSB.

The entity chaired by Josep Oliu earned €120.6 million during the first half of the year, a figure that represents a decrease of 67.2% with respect to the same period last year (€317.7 million) as a result of having recognised impairments amounting to €806 million. Nevertheless, if we ignore those extraordinary effects, the bank’s recurring net profit grew by 24.4% to €456.8 million.

The entity decided to take a hit on the income statement for the second quarter with a provision amounting to €177 million resulting from the macro sale operation of a real estate portfolio worth €12.2 billion and which was formalised in July, in other words, in the third quarter. In parallel, it decided to recognise a provision amounting to €92.4 million to deal with future compensation payments to customers of its British subsidiary, TSB, who were affected by problems caused by the connection of a new IT platform developed by Sabadell.

With this measure, the bank wants to shelve the technological crisis that it suffered in the United Kingdom and also leave its balance sheet almost completely free of the toxic assets that it accumulated during the economic crisis. Specifically, during the first six months of 2018, Sabadell decreased its problem assets by €7.012 billion, and by €9.547 billion during the last twelve months. Now, the problem balance amounts to €7.911 billion, of which €6.669 billion are doubtful debts of all kind (not only real estate) and €1.242 billion are foreclosed properties. Thus, the ratio of net problem assets over total assets amounts to 1.7%. The default ratio following the portfolio sales amounts to 4.5%.

As at 30 June 2018, the bank’s fully loaded CET1 capital ratio amounted to 11%, although that will rise to 11.2% following the transfer of the majority of the toxic assets, closed in July.

The bank led by Jaime Guardiola has sold the bulk of its non-performing and foreclosed loans to Cerberus, with whom it is going to create a joint venture in which the fund will hold an 80% stake. The entity has also sold portfolios to Deutsche Bank and to Carval Investors. Solvia has not been included in any of those transactions and will continue to be fully owned by Sabadell.

Between January and June, Sabadell increased the volume of its live loan book by 3.7% thanks to a boost from SMEs and mortgages to individuals in Spain. Customer funds increased by 2.8% YoY driven by demand deposit accounts, which amounted to €105.4 billion. Off-balance sheet funds also grew, by 1.2%, during the quarter, primarily due to investment funds.

During the first half of the year, Sabadell’s interest margin remained stable, given that the entity earned practically the same amount as it did in the six months to June 2017 (€1.81 billion). The bank has been affected by exchange differences and a reduction in results from financial operations (-51%); by contrast, fee income grew by 6%. Thus, the gross margin fell by 8.8% to €2.631 billion.

The reaction of investors to these results has been negative. Sabadell’s share price fell by 2.99%, the third largest drop on the Ibex, to €1.37. So far this year, the bank’s share price has depreciated by more than 14%.

Original story: Expansión (by Sergi Saborit)

Translation: Carmel Drake

BBVA & Sabadell Finalise Negotiations with the FGD to Sell their ‘Protected’ Toxic Assets

17 July 2018 – Expansión

The two banks are looking to remove their remaining damaged assets from their balance sheets. Sources in the sector calculate that the FGD will have to assume a cost of around €3.5 billion.

The Deposit Guarantee Fund (FGD) and BBVA and Sabadell are on the verge of reaching a definitive agreement that will allow the two banks to sell the majority of their damaged real estate assets that are protected by the FGD in order to clean up their balance sheets.

The fund will know exactly what the cost of the protection is and, in exchange, the banks will assume a greater percentage of the potential losses. Calculations from experts in the sector indicate that the cost that the FGD will have to bear amounts to around €3.5 billion.

The negotiations that have been going on for months between the heads of the FGD, led by Javier Alonso as the Chairman and Deputy Governor of the Bank of Spain, and BBVA and Sabadell, as well as the Ministry of Finance and the other financial institutions, are on the verge of reaching an agreement that will enable the two banks to get rid of the majority of their damaged real estate assets in operations similar to the ones undertaken by both Santander with Popular’s assets and more recently by CaixaBank.

The formula is the same: the two banks group together in a new company, or several new companies, the damaged assets and they sell the majority of the share capital in those companies to an investment fund, holding onto a minority stake that typically amounts to between 10% and 20%. In this way, the banks deconsolidate their real estate positions and their balance sheets look clean.

The problem that BBVA and Sabadell have had is that a large part of their assets to be sold are protected by a guarantee until 2021 whereby the FGD committed to bear the cost of 80% of any losses incurred, on the book value of those assets, when they were sold. This has been the case for the last few years (Sabadell has already sent three annual invoices to the FGD for losses over the last three years and BBVA has done the same for the last two years). And so that will continue until the end of the guarantee period.

Original story: Expansión (by Salvador Arancibia)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Santander & Sabadell Need To Recognise c. €400M in Provisions to Cover Sareb’s Losses

2 July 2018 – El Confidencial

The bad bank is continuing to generate problems for the Spanish financial sector. Both for the State, due to the stake held by the Spanish Fund for Orderly Banking Restructuring (FROB), and for the large banks, which own 55% of the entity’s share capital. In this way, the deterioration of the Company for the Management of Assets Proceeding from the Bank Restructuring (Sareb) is going to have repercussions for the banks, which will need to recognise additional provisions worth €402 million.

Specifically, the company chaired by Jaime Echegoyen (pictured above) has updated its business model to reflect forecast losses of 73% of the initial investment, which amounted to €4.8 billion in 2012 split between share capital (€1.2 billion) and subordinated debt (€3.6 billion). “It has performed a reality check, so now we know the figures that we have to stick to”, said one banking executive.

The entities most affected by these revised forecasts are Santander, following its incorporation of Popular, which now owns 22.22% of Sareb; CaixaBank with 12.24%; and Sabadell with 6.61%. Nevertheless, “the impact ought to be very limited, given that “the banks already have provisions to cover the majority of those losses”, explains Nuria Álvarez, analyst at Renta 4, in a note from the bank analysing Sareb’s revised business plan.

Banco Santander has a €1.07 billion exposure to Sareb, although it has now provisioned 50% of that figure, and so it needs additional provisions amounting to €246 million, according to calculations by JP Morgan. The analysts reduce the impact to less than 2% of the profits of the group chaired by Ana Botín.

Impact for Sabadell

The other entity that stands out in this sense is Sabadell, which, according to the US bank, has an exposure amounting to €323 million with current provisioning levels covering 29%, divided between €228 million in share capital and €95 million in subordinated debt. Therefore, according to these calculations, Banco Sabadell needs to recognise additional provisions amounting to €142 million.

The third bank with provisioning needs is CaixaBank, on the basis of these estimates, although they are somewhat residual. The bank chaired by Jordi Gual has an exposure amounting to €593 million, but with a 70% provision, meaning that its shortfall amounts to just €18 million. Meanwhile, Bankinter and Bankia do not have any provisioning needs, according to JP Morgan, and BBVA did not participate in the creation of Sareb.

The bad bank was created in 2012 to assist with the digestion of toxic property in the financial sector. Under the then presidency of Belén Romana, who has recently joined Santander’s Board ahead of the upcoming departure of Rodrigo Echenique, the entity promised profits to the banks to attract capital. The deadline for the completion of Sareb’s work is 2027, the year for which the revised business plan forecasts losses with respect to the initial investment.

Original story: El Confidencial (by Óscar Giménez)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Project Ágora: CaixaBank Sells €650M NPL Portfolio to Cerberus

21 June 2018 – Voz Pópuli

CaixaBank is getting serious with the digestion of its real estate. The Catalan bank has just closed its first major divestment of 2018 and is analysing another possible large-scale operation to be completed in the second half of the year, according to financial sources consulted by Vozpópuli.

The sale that has just been announced is Project Ágora, a €650 million portfolio whose transfer has been agreed with Cerberus. According to the same sources, the US fund and CaixaBank have already signed a pre-agreement and are now negotiating the small print of the deal. Cerberus could pay around €200 million, according to market estimates.

Project Ágora comprises around 150 unpaid loans from large companies backed by retail premises, offices, industrial land and residential assets.

Strategic revision

Following this sale, the market is expecting CaixaBank to close a macro-operation during the second half of the year. The repurchase of Servihabitat, announced two weeks ago, is seen as a preliminary step, since that is what Santander did with Aliseda before it sold Popular’s real estate to Blackstone.

The sources consulted indicate that no process is underway yet, although the entity is reportedly working on some numbers and doing some preparation work in that regard. The entity led by Gonzalo Gortázar (pictured above) is being advised by consultancy firms, including KPMG. The Madrilenian banker wants to know whether undertaking an operation such as Quasar (Popular-Blackstone) or Marina (BBVA-Cerberus) will require it to recognise any new provisions.

CaixaBank has €14 billion in foreclosed assets on its balance sheet, worth €5.8 billion. That represents a discount of 58%, according to its accounts for the first quarter. Santander sold Popular’s real estate at a discount of 67% and BBVA sold its assets at a discount of 62% (…).

Gortázar’s team wants to avoid the market fixating on CaixaBank following the sales undertaken by Santander and BBVA, and the operations that Sabadell has underway.

The commitment from Cerberus

With Project Ágora, Cerberus is continuing to grow its real estate business in Spain. The fund led in Spain by BBVA’s former Finance Director, Manuel González-Cid, already purchased a portfolio from CaixaBank at the end of last year – Project Egeo – and is completing the purchase of 80% of BBVA’s real estate for €4 billion. For this, the comments to be issued by the Deposit Guarantee Fund (FGD) in the next few weeks will be critical.

In addition to the portfolios that it has been buying, Cerberus has a large part of its Spanish real estate interests in Haya Real Estate. After trying, unsuccessfully, to debut that entity on the stock market before the summer, the fund is negotiating its key contract and/or a possible acquisition of assets with Sareb. The fund certaintly has a great deal at stake with that operation.

Original story: Voz Pópuli (by Jorge Zuloaga)

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

BBVA will be Twice as Profitable Following its Property Sale to Cerberus

11 June 2018 – Expansión

BBVA is going to double its profitability once it has completed the sale to Cerberus of its €13 billion real estate exposure, scheduled for the third quarter of the year. According to a recent report from Alantra, the ROTE ratio (Return on Tangible Equity) will leap from 7% to 15% in 2020. In addition to the aforementioned operation, which will eliminate in a flash the hefty maintenance costs associated with those properties, there will also be a positive impact resulting from the first upwards movement in interest rates (…).

The main advantage of removing the non-performing assets from its balance sheet is that it will allow the bank’s returns to flourish, which would otherwise be blocked. The key to being able to do this is having sufficient provisions to ensure that the sale of a large package to a specialist fund does not lead to significant losses on the income statement.

The operation between BBVA and Cerberus was the second largest of its kind in Spain last year. The largest was the deal involving Santander and €30 billion in property from Popular, which was sold to Blackstone.

BBVA created a company with Cerberus, controlled 80% by the US fund and 20% by the bank, to which it transferred 78,000 properties. Cerberus appraised them with a discount of 61%.

Cataluña

47% of those assets are located in Cataluña, historically the region covered by CatalunyaCaixa and Unnim, and absorbed by BBVA during the crisis. The Catalan political crisis, which reached its peak in October 2017 with the holding of an illegal referendum, came close to thwarting the operation. These homes will be managed by Haya Real Estate, the real estate management platform owned by Cerberus.

BBVA granted Cerberus a €800 million loan to finance part of the acquisition.

Following the deconsolidation, the bank’s real estate risk will be reduced to €11.4 billion. It barely has any doubtful property developer debt.

Original story: Expansión (by R. Lander)

Translation: Carmel Drake

BBVA Reduces the Property Portfolio that it will Transfer to Cerberus by 12%

17 May 2018 – Expansión

BBVA is not holding back in its strategy to reduce its exposure to the real estate sector ahead of putting the finishing touches to its agreement with Cerberus. The entity has already cleaned up some of the portfolio that it will transfer to the US fund in September.

Between the reference date for the operation – the end of June 2017, and March this year, the date of the most recent audited accounts -, the bank has decreased its foreclosed assets by 12% – those assets proceed from unpaid residential and property developer mortgages.

The bank is going to create a joint venture with the US fund to reduce its real estate exposure in Spain to almost zero. BBVA will sell 80% of that joint venture to Cerberus for an estimated price of €4 billion. But that amount may vary, depending on the volume of foreclosed assets that end up being transferred.

Initially, a portfolio with a gross asset value of around €13 billion was defined. By March, the entity’s foreclosed assets balance had decreased to a gross value of €11.541 billion. Most of the portfolio comprises finished buildings and land, which are easier to sell now thanks to the recovery of the real estate sector.

To cover its gross risk, BBVA has recognised provisions amounting to €7.073 billion, which reduces its net exposure to €4.468 billion. The coverage ratio of the foreclosed assets amounts to 61%.

Sources at BBVA explain that the portfolio that is going to be transferred to Cerberus also includes the ‘other real estate assets’ caption. The bank’s gross real estate exposure, including both concepts, amounted to €12.472 billion in March compared with €14.318 billion in June 2017.

Until the close of the operation, which is scheduled for September, the assets to be transferred to the joint venture will not be finalised. “Under no circumstances will transferring fewer assets result in a loss to the income statement. In fact, this operation is not expected to have a significant impact on the income statement”, explain official sources at the entity.

Solvency

The agreement with Cerberus will improve BBVA’s solvency. In March, the bank saw its core capital fully loaded ratio worsen to 10.9%. But the transfer of the real estate portfolio to the fund and the sale of its business in Chile will improve that metric to 11.5%.

BBVA has loaned Cerberus €800 million to finance part of its purchase of the real estate portfolio from the bank. The loan has a term of two years and will not accrue any interest. The fund will repay the debt in a single payment on the maturity date.

Spain’s financial institutions have stepped on the accelerator to clean up property from their balance sheets following Santander’s macro-operation to deconsolidate real estate risk amounting to around €30 billion proceeding from Popular (…).

Original story: Expansión (by R. Sampedro)

Translation: Carmel Drake