Open Europe Blog

Spain announced its plans for cleaning up its banking sector earlier. With the full legislation only just released, we are still looking through it and will bring you the pertinent points in due course. But there was also another interesting development with regards to the ailing lender BFA-Bankia.

The Spanish government announced this afternoon that BFA-Bankia will receive an “immediate capital injection” from Spain’s bank restructuring fund (FROB). Nonetheless, Spain has decided not to request the early disbursement of part of its €100bn bank bailout package. This is despite the fact that €30bn had been set aside for emergencies, as the Eurogroup noted in a statement issued earlier this afternoon. The funds will therefore be paid out in advance by the FROB and will be eventually incorporated into the Spanish bank bailout when it is fully dispersed.

This raises a couple of interesting questions. Firstly, why is Spain so keen to avoid tapping the €30bn kept in reserve? The money is there for just such an occasion, and in fact it was fairly obvious that this exact situation would arise. What’s more, the money will be folded into the bailout anyway. Therefore, we can only imagine that the Spanish government is keen to avoid some kind of negative stigma – although this seems slightly strange since the bailout is already confirmed. It is worth keeping in mind the constraints of the EFSF vs. ESM funding (which we covered here), so it is possible that Spain and the eurozone have decided they want to wait until the ESM is fully operational before tapping the funds.

Reading the press release, it is also clear that this is a restructuring of BFA-Bankia, meaning it is still viewed as a viable bank. This seems almost outrageous for a few reasons:

• Bad loans held by Bankia jumped by 44% (to 11%) in the past six months alone
• The group just posted a loss of €4.45bn, compared to a slight profit a year ago
• In the past six months the banking group has lost a staggering €37.6bn in client funds, a massive 28% fall. 

It’s been clear to most for some time that Bankia is no longer viable. The latest government plans for dealing with the banking sector provide for an “orderly resolution” of unviable banks and a template for splitting up its assets and winding down the institution. It is not entirely clear why this is not being applied here, although protecting retail investors could be part of it. In the end, though, investing further public funds into a failing institution will do everyone more harm than good.

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