26 March 2018 – Voz Pópuli
Spain’s bad bank Sareb has run out of patience. After spending more than four years negotiating extrajudicial agreements with debtors and putting into order its presence in thousands of real estate bankruptcies in Spain, the semi-public body is getting tough. “When you have been negotiating with a debtor for years and you know he’s not going to pay you…he doesn’t want to pay you, you are left with no other option than to go to court”, says the President of Sareb, Jaime Echegoyen.
Sareb is present in approximately 3,800 real estate bankruptcies, declared since 2008, when the property bubble burst and the Spanish economy entered the worst crisis of its young democracy. According to sources at the organisation, Sareb is demanding a total debt of €9 billion through these bankruptcy proceedings.
The company has a portfolio of loans worth €26 billion and is present in 12,200 legal processes in total, all of which involve loans to property developers (there are no mortgages to individuals). Of that total amount, 7,500 are for mortgages and 3,800 are creditor bankruptcies.
“We cannot give our blessing to people who don’t pay”, warns Echegoyen, who presented Sareb’s results for 2017 last Friday. The company has started a legal offensive on two fronts to accelerate the sale of its loan portfolio: it will boost the bankruptcy processes in which it is present as a creditor; and it will go to court to request payments from those companies that still have not responded to the debt demanded.
“We have spoken with the debtors and we will continue to do so”, said the President of Sareb. “We prefer to find an amicable solution rather than play hardball, but if we have to resort to other means, we will go to court”, he said, admitting that it is probable that the number of litigation cases involving Sareb will increase in the near future.
In recent months, a more decided approach from Sareb has been noted in certain bankruptcy processes. Like in the case of the bankruptcy of Reyal Urbis, one of the largest corporate failures in Spain’s history, where, after years of negotiation to reach an agreement, which seemed unfeasible from the beginning, Sareb’s proposal to continue reassessing the matter resulted in the liquidation of the company last September. The debt of Reyal Urbis with Sareb alone exceeds €800 million.
Sareb’s presence has also been felt in the bankruptcy of the company that used to own the In Tempo skyscraper in Benidorm, the tallest residential building in Europe, which was sold to a fund last year. And in the case of the bankruptcy of Nozar, where Sareb recently requested greater agility in the process, almost ten years after the bankruptcy was declared.
“Sareb is involved in the bankruptcies of the most well-known real estate companies; but also in thousands of other much smaller bankruptcies, each one in its own province, judged by its own bankruptcy administrators and its own idiosyncrasies”, say sources at the organisation. “Over the last few years, we have had to put in order our positions in all of these processes”, they add.
During Sareb’s five-year life, the entity, known increasingly less as the bad bank, has liquidated 27% (around €13.6 billion) of the portfolio that it was created with. The management and divestment of loans and properties has generated €20.7 billion of revenues. During the same period, the entity has paid off 25.4% of its debt, €12.9 billion. Last year, it recorded losses of €565 million, down by 15%.
Original story: Voz Pópuli (by Alberto Ortín)
Translation: Carmel Drake