Unicaja and Liberbank shareholders approved their merger to create Spain’s 5th largest bank

Shareholders of Spanish lenders Unicaja and Liberbank approved their merger, paving the way for the creation of the country’s fifth biggest bank in terms of assets.

The merger – under the terms of which Unicaja will fully absorb its rival to create a bank with 110 billion euros in assets – will bring Spain’s number of banks to 10, down from 55 prior to the 2008 economic crisis.

This marks a further acceleration of the sector’s consolidation in Spain after the merger between state-owned Bankia and Caixabank was completed last week to create the largest domestic lender.

The Unicaja-Liberbank deal will allow the combined bank to save 192 million euros annually and reach a capital ratio of 12.4% following 1.2 billion euros of merger-related costs, the banks said.

“The (merged) bank expects to be more profitable and efficient, which will result in higher organic capital generation to finance its growth, and higher recurring dividends,” Liberbank Chief Executive Manuel Menendez told shareholders.

Banks across Europe are struggling to cope with record low interest rates, and the economic downturn sparked by the coronavirus pandemic is forcing a focus on further cost-cuts, including through tie-ups.

Unicaja shareholders approved a total payment of 16.91 million euros against 2020 results, while Liberbank approved 7.86 million, both in accordance with the 15% dividend cap set by the European Central Bank (ECB).In December the ECB decided to let banks pay out part of their cumulative 2019-2020 profits to shareholders if they have enough capital, easing a blanket ban on dividends and buybacks set during the first wave of the coronavirus crisis.

Original Story: Reuters
Photo: Unicaja site
Edition: Prime Yield

SPAIN Spain’s decade-old ‘bad bank’ liabilities push debt to 120% of GDP

Spain’s public debt reached 120% of gross domestic product last year, above the previously reported 117.1%, the Bank of Spain said on the end of March, after adding ‘bad bank’ liabilities stemming from the financial crisis a decade ago as demanded by Brussels.

The debt-to-GDP ratio spiked from 95.5% at the end of 2019 and 114% in the third quarter of 2020, mostly due to increased spending to cushion the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic and a simultaneous economic slump.

The higher final debt ratio confirms what a senior government source told Reuters last week.

The ‘bad bank’, known as SAREB, was created to take on over 50 billion euros in bad loans and other toxic assets from nine Spanish savings banks during the financial crisis in 2012 as part of an international bailout for Spain’s financial sector.

The accounting change follows demands from Eurostat, the European Union’s statistics body, that the bad bank, known as SAREB, should be considered a public entity. 

Original Story: ReutersAuthor: Aida Pelaez-Fernandez 
Photo: Photo by Victor Iglesias from FreeImages
Edition: Prime Yield

Bank NPLs to peak at 6.5% to 8% in 2022, says Fitch

Fitch agency predicts a difficult 2022 for Spanish banks. The rating agency estimates that the financial sector will reach a peak in the default rate in 2022, which will be around 6.5% and 8%, although in any case it will depend on the evolution of the economic recovery.
Fitch Ratings expects Spanish banks’ asset quality to weaken as borrowers’ ability to pay comes under pressure from the consequences of the coronavirus crisis, particularly when the support and containment measures expire,” the agency said in a note.

In the opinion of the rating agency’s experts, in 2020 there was already “evidence” of a deterioration in asset quality due to the consequences of Covid-19, although non-performing loans fell to 4.2%, down from 4.5% at the end of 2019.

Nevertheless, Fitch stresses that throughout the year, especially in the fourth quarter, banks have been identifying potential risks and have increased the number of loans classified as Stage 2, i.e. on special watch, the step prior to considering them doubtful. “SME and consumer lending will be the sectors most vulnerable to economic stress,” he concludes.

Original Story: El Independiente | Elena Lozano
Photo: Photo by Lotus Head in
Translation: Prime Yield

Funds target the end of 2021 to reactivate large purchases of toxic assets

What comes in on the one hand, has to be ‘drained’ on the other. The expected increase in defaults in the coming months is forcing banks to reactivate the configuration of portfolios of new distressed loans created during the crisis. An operation that was practically paralyzed in the first half of 2020 and which the large funds do not expect to resume until the end of this year.

This is explained by various entities consulted by Invertia, protagonists in this type of operation, which have been making room for months to deal with the arrival of these new assets over the coming months. Experts rule out an avalanche as in the previous financial crisis but, without doubt, there will be foreclosures and executions that will swell these portfolios. And they will have to be disposed of as soon as possible.

“For the time being, we expect to see transactions involving the sale and purchase of assets such as mortgage debt in excess of hundreds of millions of euros, but this is a far cry from the billions that were seen in the past,” explain a national financial institution.

It seems logical. The mergers that will be completed during the course of this year will create larger portfolios from the last quarter onwards, which may be of greater interest to the large funds involved in these operations. This will also coincide in time with greater pressure on the banking sector in terms of non-performing loans.

Although banks rule out double-digit growth in NPLs, as the worst predictions suggested just a few months ago, it is necessary to prepare the exit of these new ‘toxic’ assets to avoid undoing the path taken in recent years, in which the cleaning up of the balance sheet has been key for the sector to reach this new crisis on a sound footing.

Especially after the last quarter in which a strong upturn in loans in the so-called ‘stage 2’ (under special surveillance) has been detected. “As a leading indicator of default, we expect that some of these credits end up appearing as bad debts,” warn Axesor Rating in a recent analysis.

They also point to the gross inflow of bad loans in some banks during the last quarter of the year. But this has not led to a deterioration in the average NPL ratio due, precisely, “to the sale of failed portfolios that has offset this effect or the greater increase in the denominator, i.e. loans versus doubtful assets”.

Original Story: Invertia (El Espanol) | Clara Alba
Photo:Photo by Xexo Xeperti from FreeImages
Edition & Translation: Prime Yield

Spain’s largest banks piles €159 bilion credits at risk of default

Spain’s six larger banks (Santander, BBVA, CaixaBank, Sabadell, Bankia and Bankinter) accumulate €159 billion in loans and credit lines at risk of default, a pile that has risen by about 20% in the last quarter of the year alone and that is classified under special surveillance. 

This amount represents 8% of their portfolio and stands out as one of the key threats for the accounts of the next two years.

Although the banking sector isn’t yet recording an increase in insolvencies due to the health crisis, due to the moratoriums and the facilities of ICO financing, most of the sector experts consider that throughout 2021 the delinquencies will begin to escalate, especially in the sectors most affected by activity restrictions -tourism, leisure, restaurants and transport, mainly-, but also in consumption and, more residually, in the mortgage segment.

Amid the country’s banking industry, the most significant rise in nonperforming loans (NPL) is expected to occur until the end of 2022, although some bankers, such as CaixaBank CEO, considers that the peak will occur at the end of this year. Against this backdrop, most banks have been accumulating provisions to face these potential losses. However, in the second semester of 2020 their extraordinary provisions have decreased compared to the piggy bank make in the first half, due to the aim of offering better income statements and profitability, despite the slap on the wrist from the Bank of Spain due to the slowdown in endowments.

In total, they have reserved slightly more than €25 billion against the income statement between the extraordinary item for the pandemic and for the regular entry of insolvencies, which is more than double than in 2019. 

Original Story: El Economista |Fernando Tadeo 
Photo: Photo by Victor Iglesias from FreeImages
Translation & Edition:
 Prime Yield

BBVA sells a €700 million real estate loans and asset portfolio to KKR

BBVA announced the close of an agreement with global investment fund company KKR – primarily through its KKR Private Credit Opportunities Partners III fund – to transfer the ownership of a real estate loan and asset portfolio from Unnim with a gross value of approximately €700 million.

Dubbed “Dakar”, the portfolio consists of two types of real estate loans (with and without mortgage guarantees) and REOs (Real Estate Owned) assets.

Over the past three years, BBVA has completed several loan portfolio sale transactions, mostly real estate and mortgage loans. In December 2019, the Spanish bank completed its two largest sales of written-off loan portfolios: Project “Juno”, a portfolio with a gross value of approximately €2.5 billion, and the “Hera” portfolio, comprised of loans to small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) with an approximate gross value of €2.1 billion.

Before, in December 2018 the bank completed the sale of  the €1.2 billion portfolio “agora” primarly consisting of mortgages (both non-performing and in default loans). In June 2018, BBVA sold a property development loan portfolio worth €1 billion called “Sintra” and in July 2017 it sold another portfolio of loans to developers with a gross value of around €600 million, known as Project “Jaipur”.

Furthermore, in October 2018 BBVA completed the transfer of its real estate business in Spain to Cerberus Capital Management. The closing of the transaction resulted in the sale of Cerberus of an 80% stake in Divarian, the company created to transfer the real estate portfolio. BBVA retained the remaining 20% stake.

Original Story: BBVA
Photo: BBVA site
Edition: Prime Yield

CarVal buys a €250 million refinanced mortgage portfolio from Abanca

Abanca, the bank chaired by Juan Carlos Escotet, was the protagonist of the last banking operation in 2020 and the first in 2021. In addition to the first issue of subordinated bonds (AT1) this year, announced last week, an agreement was reached in extremis in 2020: the sale of a portfolio of 250 million in refinanced mortgages to the US fund CarVal Investors, according to financial sources consulted by El Confidencial.

Neither Abanca nor CarVal made any comments. This operation is one of those that were negotiated in the last days of 2020 with the aim of having it count in that year’s accounts, which will be presented in the coming weeks. Abanca put this portfolio up for sale in the middle of last year, in a competitive process known as the Eume Project. The sources consulted point out that there were moments when it seemed that the operation would not be successful, due to all the uncertainties that have existed on the mortgage market during 2020: pandemic, real estate prospects, regulation, court rulings and squatting.

The credits included in the Eume Project are up to date, although with some delays during the last 12 months. This type of refinanced loan is usually included within the ‘Stage 2’ fixed by the European Central Bank (ECB), for normal risk under special surveillance, which requires the institutions to advance losses. This factor, together with the possible deterioration of these mortgages due to the covid-19 crisis, led Abanca to accelerate their sale last year. In June, the Galician entity had real estate loans -with some kind of collateral linked to bricks- for a value of 18,850 million, of which 461 million were under special surveillance and 625 million were in doubt. Abanca’s default rate is 2.6%, one of the lowest in Spain, with higher figures for SMEs and the self-employed (5%) and consumer loans (4%).

Original Story: El Confidencial | Jorge Zuloaga
Photo: ABanca website
Translation/Edition/Summary/Adaptation: Prime Yield

Banco Sabadell sells a portfolio of distressed assets to KKR for €130 million

Banco Sabadell has sold a portfolio of distressed assets from CAM to the US investment firm KKR for around EUR 130 million.

The sale, which was signed a few days ago, relates to the so-called “Aurora project”, with a book value of approximately EUR 500 million, according to sources close to the transaction, which were advised by Deloitte.

Bain Capital has also participated in the final bid for this portfolio, integrated by the Alicante entity’s toxic assets, which Sabadell assumed in 2011 after a bailout of the Deposit Guarantee Fund (FGD).

Nine years later, the bank presided over by Josep Oliu has managed to divest itself of the portfolio, thus concluding the Asset Protection Scheme (EPA) which it received in exchange for keeping the fund.

This sale also allows Sabadell to continue cleaning up its balance sheet, now that the merger negotiations with BBVA have failed and the group of Catalan origin wants to continue on its own and with a new management, led by César González-Bueno, who will take over from Jaume Guardiola as chief executive.

This is the second operation of this type closed by Banco Sabadell this year, after it signed the sale of a portfolio of non-performing loans to the management company Tilden Park for some 65 million euros just a few days ago.

Original Story: EFE/Expansión
Photo: Sabadell Bank site
Translation: Prime Yield

Spain orders banks to extend state-backed loan scheme for another 6 months

Spain ordered banks to comply with a six-month extension of a state-backed loan scheme to June next year, designed to help companies struggling with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Economy minister Nadia Calvino told bank clients who have no overdue payments can request these loans. Banks should also provide these loans with longer maturities and grace periods if customers ask for them, the minister said.

“These measures are aimed at addressing potential solvency problems that may start arising and prevent viable companies from shutting down,” Calvino said.

Spain has already provided €108 billion in state-guaranteed loans to its companies, she said.

With nearly 1.5 million cases and 41,253 deaths from COVID-19, and an economy that relies heavily on tourism, Spain has been one of the countries in Europe hardest-hit by the pandemic.

The International Monetary Fund has said Spain is the euro zone country with the highest take-up of guaranteed loans.

At a regular weekly meeting, the cabinet also approved an extension until March of restrictions on forced bankruptcies of companies affected by the coronavirus pandemic to avoid the so-called cliff effect from the withdrawal of some support measures next year.

Guarantees on the state-backed credit lines, designed to help companies amid the pandemic-induced economic crisis, were extended to up to eight years from the originally planned five on most loans.

An extra year was added to the grace periods, which allow borrowers to delay payment without being charged late fees, being found in default or having their loans cancelled.

Companies had been given until December to apply for the state-guaranteed funding scheme of €140 billion. The grace period on a significant volume of loans ends in April, and many small businesses feared they would not have been able to cope with their payments that soon. 

Original Story: Reuters | Belén Carreño 
Photo: Caixa Bank website
Edition:Prime Yield

BBVA and Sabadell in talks to create Spain’s second-biggest lender

BBVA and smaller rival Sabadell announced they are in talks to create Spain’s second-biggest domestic lender by assets, the latest move in the accelerating consolidation of the Spanish banking sector.

BBVA/Sabadell merger would mark a significant step in this process, coming after Caixabank agreed in September to buy Bankia for €4.3 billion.

If a BBVA/Sabadell deal goes ahead, the new bank would have nearly €600 billion in assets in Spain and a combined market value, Reuters calculations using Refinitiv data showed.

Taking into account both banks’ international businesses, but deducting the upcoming sale of BBVA’s U.S. division, a merged group would have around €860 billion in total assets, still below Santander’s €1.5 trillion global balance sheet.

Banks across Europe are struggling to cope with record low interest rates, and the economic downturn sparked by the coronavirus pandemic is forcing them to focus on further cost cuts, on a standalone basis or through tie-ups.

Both BBVA and Sabadell said the talks were ongoing and said no decision had been made on whether a transaction would go ahead.

“The entities have initiated a reciprocal due diligence review process as is customary in this type of transactions and have appointed external advisers,” BBVA said in a stock exchange filing.

“It is noted that no decision has been made in relation to the potential merger transaction and that there is no certainty as to whether any such decision will be made or, if that is the case, as to the terms and conditions of a potential transaction.”

Sabadell’s own statement confirmed the talks and said it had initiated a due diligence process and designated external advisers.

Original Story: Reuters | Jesus Aguado 
Photo: BBVA website
Edition: Prime Yield

Spanish banks “face asset quality slump” next year

Leading Spanish banks reported a slight recovery in Q3 domestic earnings compared to the Q2 as net fees and interest income rose, boosted by larger loan and fixed income books.

However, new restrictions that have been imposed in Spain to fight the second wave of Covid-19 are likely to increase loan loss provisions in the next few quarters putting pressure on Spanish lenders’ domestic profitability, according to DBRS Morningstar.

DBRS Morningstar posted an earnings commentary on Spain’s seven largest banks – Bankia, Bankinter, BBVA, Caixabank, Liberbank, Sabadell and Santander.

Non-performing loans (NPLs) decreased in four out of the seven banks this year but other indicators point to a “material asset quality deterioration” in the next few quarters, wrote analysts Pablo Manzano and Arnaud Journois.

These indicators include the ECB ́s latest bank lending survey; Spanish Banks have been tightening access to credit during the Q3 and expect to continue doing so for the rest of the year.

The Bank of Spain ́s stress test published on October 29, meanwhile, showed an expected negative impact on capital ratios ranging between 100bps and 200bps for large Spanish banks on its baseline scenario at the end of 2022.

Moreover, statements made by EU officials, including ECB supervisory board chair Andrea Enria suggest that NPLs at European banks could hit higher levels than the last global crisis.

Therefore, the onset of the Covid-19 second wave is likely to cause “significant asset quality deterioration” in Spain’s banking sector in 2021, according to DBRS Morningstar.

Mr Manzano and Mr Journois wrote that the slow pace of credit quality deterioration reported in the banks’ financials this year, despite the huge economic shock of Covid-19, can largely be explained by the extraordinary measures applied by governments and banks to support the economy, including loan moratoria and state guaranteed loans.

In terms of loan moratoria, an average 6.5% of lenders’ total loan books have been subject to some kind of payment holiday, according to DBRS Morningstar.

The use of ‘stage 2’ loans – loans at risk of turning bad – on the moratoria portfolio remains much higher than on the ‘normal’ portfolio, the analysts wrote, indicating that this perimeter of loans has experienced credit quality deterioration at a significantly higher rate than other parts of the loan book.

Moreover, according to Bank of Spain analysis, the moratoria granted in Spain has targeted borrowers which were already the most vulnerable households, even before the Covid-19 crisis.

In addition, Spanish banks have implemented the state guarantee scheme in Spain and in other geographies. As of September 30, banks have granted around €104 billion in lending to SMEs and corporates in Spain linked to the state guarantee scheme. Credit risk has therefore been mitigated significantly by the state guarantees approved by the Spanish government, according to DBRS Morningstar.

This scheme represents around 25% of the sector’s exposure to SMEs and corporates in Spain. In addition, the Spanish government has also approved a new state guarantee loan scheme of up to €40 billion to provide funding sources to new investment projects.

Original Story: The Banker |David Robinson 
Photo: Banco de España website
Edition: Prime Yield

EUROPE Wave of NPL is threat in Europe

Pandemic payment breaks on European loans totalling billions of euros threaten to undermine efforts by the region’s banks to put the coronavirus crisis behind them.

Some of the millions of borrowers who were given repayment holidays by banks and governments across Europe shortly after the outbreak of the pandemic still need relief as a second wave of lockdowns squeezes the economy and puts people out of work.

But the longer their loan repayments are kept on ice, the bigger the potential problem for banks as debts stack up, making them more difficult to tackle.

The European Central Bank’s chief supervisor Andrea Enria has warned of a “huge wave” of unpaid loans that could top €1.4 trillion and has cautioned against postponing writing them off, warning that waiting for loan moratoria to expire could see many borrowers “unravel at once”.

Although the volume of loans on pause fell sharply over the summer, a Reuters survey and analysis of the latest data available shows that loans totalling about €320 billion were still on a payment holiday at 10 of Europe’s biggest banks.

Personal debt in Europe, whether for houses, white goods or cars, is at a record high, European Union data shows. Although some countries cut back in the past decade, consumers in Britain, France and Germany borrowed roughly one fifth more.

So when payment holidays became widespread during the first wave of coronavirus lockdowns in Europe, lenders prepared for losses, with financial results showing that the 10 have set aside some 45 billion euros to cover the cost of unpaid loans.

An analysis of loans still on a payment break at ten of Europe’s largest banks, Santander SAN.MC, HSBC HSBA.L, Barclays BARC.L, Societe Generale SOGN.PA, BNP Paribas BNPP.PA, ING INGA.AS, Intesa ISP.MI, UniCredit CRDI.MI, Deutsche Bank DBKGn.DE and Credit Agricole CAGR.PA, show many thousands are still delaying resuming monthly repayments.

For banks looking to avoid a return to the dark days of the debt crisis a decade ago, there is a delicate balancing act between meeting government requests to go easy on borrowers and not putting their loan books in jeopardy.

Calculating default risk is complicated and banks take many factors into consideration such as the type of loan, the circumstances of the borrower and the wider economy.

Spain’s Santander, which has €39 billion of loans on hold, made 9.6 billion euros of provisions for unpaid debt, while Italy’s Intesa, with €48 billion of loans on moratoria, set aside just 2.7 billion euros this year.

A spokesman for Intesa said customers that took payment holidays were resilient and their exposure to tourism, hard hit by the crisis, was low. Santander declined to comment.

Central banks in Germany, which told banks to prepare for the “worst case” and Portugal, which cautioned of the risks of winding down economic support measures, are worried that if personal debt problems spiral it could suck in banks too.

 “Some banks have more than 20 per cent of their loans on payment holiday. When will gravity kick in? At some point, you have to return to normal business,” Jerome Legras of Axiom Alternative Investments said.

In Italy, payment breaks rose to roughly 10 per cent of mortgage loans at the height of the pandemic, while in Britain it reached more than 15 per cent, calculations by the European Datawarehouse, which collects the data for investors, show.

Payment holidays in Portugal reached 12 per cent, it estimated.

Since then, the majority of borrowers have resumed paying.

But problems linger.

“There is a significant amount of distressed debt throughout Europe,” Ed Sibley, Deputy Governor of the Irish Central Bank said. “And that distress will increase because of COVID-19.”

A recent study by Ireland’s central bank found that although the number of payment breaks had fallen by more than a quarter since June, 9 per cent of Irish loans remain on hold.

It found that hotels and restaurants, among the worst hit by the pandemic, were the most likely to still be on a break.

“For now, job protection measures are in place. But this will start coming to an end,” said Ernest Urtasun, a Spanish lawmaker in the European Parliament. “The number of distressed borrowers will explode in the coming months.”

Banks, however, are hopeful government support, which is being extended around Europe, will help.“Withdrawing support to companies and the economy ahead of time is the time bomb,” said Miguel Maya, CEO of Portugal’s Millenium bcp. “We have to give the economy time to breathe.”

Original Story: Cyprus Mail | Reuters News
Photo: Photo by Lotus Head in
Edition: Prime Yield

New Iberian Mortgage Market Assumptions Show Coronavirus Impact

The coronavirus pandemic will push residential mortgage default rates up and home prices down in Spain and Portugal, Fitch Ratings says in a new report. Payment holidays have cushioned mortgage performance from the pandemic’s impact, but job losses mean some borrowers will face payment shocks as their payment holidays come to an end.

We have updated our key analytical assumptions for Iberian mortgage portfolios to reflect the continuing credit effects of the pandemic. Under our ‘Bsf’ rating scenario reflecting our base-case expectation plus a small cushion, the lifetime default rate of a representative mortgage pool has increased to 9.7% in Portugal and 7.8% in Spain, from 9% and 7% respectively”,  says the agency in a note.

Banking system non-performing loan (NPL) ratios have not yet risen from pre-pandemic levels, as payment holidays suppress and delay mortgage defaults. But while payment holidays will have helped some borrowers avoid default, the roll-rate to default for payment holiday loans will be mostly influenced by underlying employment dynamics. Historical data from legacy Spanish portfolios indicates that default rates on payment holiday loans could be about 20% higher than on standard loans.

Borrower support measures may have also delayed evidence of house price drops, amid very low interest rates and expansionary ECB monetary policy. Nevertheless, Fitch Ratings forecasts Spanish nominal house prices to decline approximately by 10% in 2020-2021, and had increased its “Bsf’ rating scenario current-to-trough house price decline (HPD) assumption to 24% from 17%, “mainly because of weakening affordability and fragile consumer confidence due to the pandemic’s impact on GDP and employment.

Unlike Spain, Portugal saw mortgage lending volumes grow in the first half of 2020, supporting nominal price growth in the high single digits. However, Fitch analysts believe lower domestic demand, and a more cautious approach by lenders and also by cash and foreign buyers (who together have accounted for more than half of housing market activity in recent years), will see prices fall by around 2% over the next one-two years. Our current-to-trough HPD assumption for Portugal is unchanged at 26%.

Original Story: Fitch |  Fitch Ratings
Photo: Photo by Xexo Xeperti for
Edition: Prime Yield

NPL ratio among Spanish lenders “shrink to 2.94%

The average non-performing loans (NPL) ratio among the Spanish lenders hit 2.94% by the end of June, reducing from the 3.4% recorded 12 months before, according to the latest data from Spain’s Central Bank.

These figures represent the lowest since the second quarter of 2015, when this historical series began to be published, stresses the same entity. As for segments, Spain’s Central Bank statistics also show that the NPL ratio among the largest lenders was 3.02%, while among the smallest was 2.4%.

Original story: Cinco Dias |News
Photo: Banco de España
Edition: Prime Yield

Number of mortgages dropped 14.6% in March

The number of mortgages taken out by Spaniards fell in March by 14.6% year-on-year, the government’s statistics body said, reflecting the hit from the coronavirus outbreak.

March’s 26,382 mortgages also represented a 26.8% decrease from February, the National Statistics Institute said.

One of the worst-hit nations in the world by the COVID-19 disease, Spain began a strict lockdown on March 14.

Mortgages in April, the first full month under lockdown, are likely to fall even more starkly. Analysts expect the near standstill in Spain’s economy to have a direct impact on banks’ mortgage books, which account for 40% of their credit portfolios or around €500 bn.

State-owned Bankia, one of the most-exposed lenders to mortgage loans, said during first quarter results new mortgage lending had fallen around 60% in April against March, though it expected a post-lockdown recovery.

Lockdown measures prevented individuals from conducting property visits, taking out mortgages, and relying on public notaries – who were only permitted to practise in emergency cases.

To mitigate the impact of the epidemic, which led to hundreds of thousands of job losses, the government approved mortgage holidays in March.

Spain’s economy relies heavily on both tourism and real estate activity, making it particularly vulnerable to the pandemic which has killed 27,117 people.

Property prices, however, held steady despite the economic ravages, with Spain’s largest property portal Idealista reporting a 0.5% rise in home prices in April.

Original Story: Reuters| Clara-Laeila Laudette
Photo: Photo by Svilen Milev from
Edition: Prime Yield

Spanish banks’ ECB borrowing rise to 16 month high in April

Spanish banks borrowed €167.5 bn in April from the European Central Bank, a 17% increase from March to the highest level in 16 months amid the coronavirus pandemic, Bank of Spain data showed on Thursday.

The €24.5 bn monthly increase was also the highest since March of 2012, near the height of the financial crisis, when it jumped by more than €146.5 bn.

In August 2012, Spanish banks had taken a record €411 bn from the ECB, when the country’s financial turmoil reached a peak and weak lenders were granted a €41.3 bn aid package from Europe that summer.

Banks in the euro zone are expected to apply for cheaper long-term funding lines to help mitigate the impact from the coronavirus outbreak.

With financial markets in meltdown and borrowing costs soaring for the euro zone’s weaker members, the European Central Bank said in April it would make loans to banks even cheaper.

With the euro zone’s economy deep in recession, banks are bracing for a new wave of non-payments from clients hit by the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent economic shutdown.

In its latest move to support the sector, the ECB said it would now pay banks at least 0.50% and up to 1% if they tap its three-year loan auctions.

Under the new ECB’s schemes, they will earn 0.50% for one year from June by simply tapping the targeted longer-term refinancing operations (TLTRO) auction and 1% if they pass on the cash to households or companies.

To prevent any liquidity crunch the ECB also announced seven new Pandemic Emergency Longer-Term Refinancing Operations (PELTRO) at which banks will get as much credit as they want and earn 25 basis points.

This may prove enticing in particular for lenders in peripheral countries such as Spain that can use the cash to buy higher-yielding domestic government bonds and pocket the difference in interest rates.

Original Story: Reuters|Jesus Aguado
Photo: Photo by Victor Iglesias from FreeImages
Edition: Prime Yield

Spanish companies are now better prepared to cope with the crisis

Spanish companies are better prepared to face the disruption from the coronavirus pandemic than when the global financial crisis hit, although some vulnerabilities persist, the Bank of Spain governor said.

Spain’s central bank said in its latest financial stability report that risks to global financial stability had increased but measures taken at national and European should help mitigate them.

«Spanish households and non-financial companies are facing this situation with a significantly more favourable financial position than before the global financial crisis,» Bank of Spain governor Pablo Hernandez de Cos said in a separate statement commenting on the central bank’s report.

De Cos, who is also a member of the European Central Bank governing council, said the better relative positive position of Spanish companies was mainly a result of the substantial reduction of their debt in recent years, which is now below the European average.

However, the Bank of Spain said the contraction of the economy in the second quarter would be significantly higher than in the previous quarter, when it showed a quarterly record decrease of 5.2%.

The Bank of Spain also said that the COVID-19 pandemic had lead to an increase of the cost of risk – or the cost of insuring a loan – in banks’ exposures to companies. The challenges for lenders were significant due to the magnitude of the shock in the short-term.

Against this backdrop, the Bank of Spain said that despite the significant reduction in bad loans since 2014, the non-performing loans ratio was still above pre-crisis levels and would experience an increase thus further eroding the bank’s already battered profitability ratios.

Original Story: Reuters| Jesus Aguado, Emma Pinedo
Photo: Photo by Pablo Rodríguez from FreeImages
Edition: Prime Yield

European banks expected to suffer a €380 bn hit due to pandemic

European banks are expected to duffer a hit of up €380 billion to their capital due to the economic disruption from coronavirus pandemic, but most should be able to absorb the losses, according to the European Banking Authority (EBA).

EU’s banking watchdog said it had carried out a “sensitivity analysis” based on the results of its 2018 stress test of the sector to determine the likely increase in nonperforming loans (NPL) and increased riskiness of their loan books because of the virus emergency. 

The share prices of many European banks have fallen almost 50% this year as investors have anticipated how the economic and financial turmoil caused by the pandemic will hurt their weak profitability and may force some to raise extra capital. 

However, “The starting position of the banks [was] very good at the end of last year [and] the measures put in place since the last crisis have held up”, José Manuel Campa, chairman of the EBA, told the Financial Times.

“As a result of all that, the buffers are large and should be sufficient in the short term so we are not worried about [the banks’] short-term ability to lend to the economy and in the long term to have sufficient buffers to absorb the eventual losses,” he added. 

Assuming an increase of between €169 bn and €291 bn in bad loans at the biggest eurozone banks, the EBA said the hit to their capital would be accentuated by an overall increase in the likelihood of borrowers to default. 

The watchdog’s estimate for the capital likely to be wiped out by the crisis ranged from 2.3 to 3.8 % of banks’ total risk-weighted assets — the main way they measure how much capital they need. Every percentage point of risk-weighted assets is worth about €100bn of capital. 

At the end of 2019, banks had capital equivalent to nearly 15 per cent of their risk-weighted assets — roughly 3% above the level required by regulators. Several measures introduced by regulators in response to the virus have provided banks with capital relief equivalent to about 2% of risk-weighted assets. 

The FT reported this year that European Central Bank officials have held high-level talks with counterparts in Brussels about creating a eurozone bad bank to remove billions of euros in toxic debts from lenders’ balance sheets — but the plan has faced opposition from some EU governments. 

The EBA, which postponed a planned stress test of the sector until 2021 because of the virus, said: “As the crisis develops, banks are likely to face growing non-performing loan volumes, which can reach levels similar to those recorded in the aftermath of the sovereign debt crisis. 

“Capital levels should help banks withstand the impact of Covid-19,” it said, adding: “There could be weaker banks (those with pre-crisis problems or heavily exposed to the sectors more affected by crisis) facing more severe challenges.” 

Total NPLs in the biggest 121 eurozone banks had more than halved in six years to €506bn, or 3.2% of their loan books, by the end of last year. But Greek, Cypriot, Portuguese and Italian banks still have NPL ratios above 6%. 

The watchdog said that 18 per cent of European bank loans were to companies in sectors expected to be hardest hit by the disease, including hotels, restaurants, manufacturing, electricity and transport and storage.

However, it said there were a number of caveats to its estimates, including the government guarantees and moratoria being offered on bank loans in various countries, which could shield lenders’ balance sheets from the impact of the crisis. 

It warned that its analysis was only for credit risk, and there could be “additional losses from market, counterparty and operational risk”. It added it had not taken account of the rise in bank lending since the start of this year, as many companies drew down credit facilities.

Original Story: Financial Times | Martin Arnold and Stephen Morris 
Photo: Photo by Szymon Szymon for
Edition: Prime Yield

Bankia net profit falls 54% in Q2 due to Covid-19 provisions

Bankia, Spain’s fourth-largest bank by assets, reported a 54% drop in first-quarter net profit hut by higher provisions and lower net interest income. The bank set aside a provision of €125 million to protect its balance sheet and support its customers against the fallout from the COVID-19 disease.

In the January to March quarter, Bankia reported a net profit of €94 million in the January to March quarter.

Bankia, like rival Santander SAN.MC and others, has been taking steps to counter risk as the global economy reels due to the coronavirus crisis.

Like many other European banks, Spanish lenders are also struggling to increase earnings on lending due to low interest rates.

Bankia’s net interest income, or earnings on loans minus deposit costs, fell 8.7% to €458 million. Analysts had forecast it at €473 million.

At the end of March, Bankia had a core tier-1 capital ratio – the strictest measure of solvency – of 12.95% versus 13.02% at end-December, while its non-performing loan ratio stood at 4.9%, down from 5%.

Original Story: Nasdaq|Jesus Aguado
Photo: Bankia Site
Edition:Prime Yield

Spanish real estate prices fell 1.1% in February year-on-year

The number of properties sold in Spain in February dropped 1.1% year-on-year and 5% compared to the previous month, according to latest figures from the National Statistics Institute (INE).

In last data to be collected before native transmissions of the coronavirus hit Spain, the residential sector fared worse month-on-month, down 6%, though year-on-year it gained 0.1%.

Spain’s property market has had a rollercoaster two decades, with a slow but steady recovery in the past eight years as it emerged from a near six-year recession provoked by the explosion of a real estate bubble in 2007.

The autonomous regions of Catalonia and Madrid, both real estate powerhouses, saw their property sales stumble 4.4% and 3.2% respectively year-on-year for February.

The two regions registering the steepest annual drop in property sales for the month were La Rioja at 36.4% and the Basque Country at 20.7%.

However, sales ballooned between 8% and 12.7% year-on-year in the Balearic Islands, Andalucia, and Aragon.

The nationwide rate of property transfers, for its part, slackened by 1.1% compared to the same month last year, representing a compound annual fall of 2.9%.

Meanwhile, Madrid and Catalonia saw property transfer rates tumble 8.2% and 6.2% respectively relative to February 2019.

Original Story: Reuters |Clara-Laeila Laudette, Belen Carreno and Jesus Aguado 
Photo: Photo by Philipp K for
Edition: Prime Yield