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Spain’s savings banks are open for capital

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MADRID / FRANKFURT. The Spanish savings banks are currently experiencing a revolution . They go through an unprecedented process of consolidation and are now forced by the government to reform. "Apart from the reconstruction process, the Spanish credit institutions to be prepared for the reform of the international financial system, which requires more and better capital, " says a law that comes into force this week . It allows the Spanish savings banks, voting shares of up to 50 percent of the stock market to bring . Explicit goal , the savings banks " to facilitate access to capital markets under the best conditions and specifically to attract foreign capital . "

The number of savings banks, which occupy half of the market in Spain declined in recent years from 47 percent to about one-third. The mergers and radical reduction in capacity could lead to be closed up to 20 percent of the net savings of over 24 000 branches and savings are realized by two billion euros , analysts estimate the Bank of America Merrill Lynch. The government wants to strengthen the capital base of the " Cajas ", which has suffered because of the provision for bad real estate loans. Furthermore , the influence of regional politicians are back on the policy of the savings banks.

Under the new provisions, the savings in future have the choice between four organizational forms – tailored suits , had as the President of the savings bank association CECA , Isidro Fain asked . You can easily keep savings bank to issue voting shares , and adjust their statutes to the new conditions as regards the politicians. Another possibility is the result of a so-called "cold fusion ", in the course of various savings banks together under the umbrella of a holding company. They retain their brands and their legal autonomy focus , but about risk management, funding or managing in a central organ. This holding company must turn at least 50 percent under the control of the savings banks to remain involved . A third option envisages to transfer the entire financial transaction to a bank, and yourself to be limited to the social activities in the framework of the Savings Bank Foundation. In such a construction should the savings bank or a foundation , more than half the shares in the bank on the stock exchange , privatize virtually all of the money that is business.

Result of the reforms is that the systemic risk is reduced because the concentration process is expected to improve profitability. With the opening up to private investors would have to Cajas also increase their transparency and the market would be able to review their performance critically , say the analysts of Bank of America Merrill Lynch. As part of the consolidation, the savings so far government capital injections amounting to about eleven billion € have received. All Cajas have to undergo the Europe- stress test, which is currently running. Should it , as feared by many analysts , new gaps in the capital blankets come to light, the government wants to help out with additional capital injections. The EU would be an extension of the bank rescue fund Froben, expires at the end of June to agree , Finance Minister Elena Salgado told this week .

In Germany, the privatization debate is silenced, because the over 400 public-sector savings banks are already doing without government assistance. Apart from a few problem cases such as the Großsparkasse Cologne -Bonn , the majority of savings in real estate and industrial holdings have not verhoben . However, the regional savings banks associations have endorsed the adventures of large regional banks in the capital markets . Even delicate reform approaches are opposed by the savings banks, such as the recently adopted Savings Bank in Schleswig – Holstein. There, the institutions will provide capital and to sell 25.1 percent of the shares of other savings banks. This measure aims to strengthen shareholders’ equity . Critics fear that the law could be a start toward privatization.