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María Amparo Salvador Armendáriz, Ph.D. from Administrative Law, University of Navarra, Spain

Savings Banks and markets

Thu, 14 Jul 2011 10:10:40 +0000 Published in Navarra Newspaper

If it were not for the international economic turbulence we are experiencing these days, the financial news at the beginning of the summer would undoubtedly be the IPO of several savings banks. Specifically, Bankia and Banca Cívica, the only two groups of savings banks that have decidedly opted to go directly to the private capital markets to finance themselves.

The complex and stormy Greek bailout, the worrying behavior of the Spanish debt risk premium and the instability and volatility of our stock markets, among other reasons, are obscuring the path that the two aforementioned entities have decided to follow. The poor performance of external factors is leading some to think about the possible delay of their IPO, looking for a more appropriate moment for the placement of the new shares. This is certainly not the desired scenario.

If we add to this the uncertainty caused by the emergency meeting meeting of the European Union's ministers of Economics and finance on Friday and the forthcoming publication of the famous stress tests, there is a great deal of concern.

However, in my opinion, the choice to go directly to the markets - even at this stage - has to be judged positively. Much more is at stake with these two financing operations than the specific status of both financial groups. What is at stake is, in fact, the solvency of the Spanish financial system as a whole. And the Spanish financial system is undoubtedly solvent.

The status in which the savings banks found themselves in October 2008 at plenary session of the Executive Council outbreak of the crisis already suffered at that time from a weakness that all analysts had pointed out: the difficulty in increasing their equity as a result of the limitations imposed on them by the legal form of their foundational basis. It is true that various regulatory modifications attempted to alleviate and respond to this difficulty, in particular by means of resource to the issuance of participative quotas. The invention proved to be a failure and very few savings banks ventured down this path.

Then, once the liquidity crisis was overcome in the autumn of 2008, the long deterioration of the Spanish Economics has ended up undermining the initial advantage with which our institutions started out from credit , when the Spanish banking system was presented, and rightly so, as model in international forums.

Little by little, the need to capitalize the savings banks became more pressing and the ways to achieve this have also gradually become clearer. The State created the FROB in 2009, an instrument that has served to inject capital into many of our savings banks, while the banking authority forced the restructuring of the sector by promoting mergers and integration processes in Institutional Protection Systems. It is a relevant fact that from 45 savings banks in 2008, there are now only 17. It is reasonable to think that there will continue to be changes in this direction.

But all these measures have not been sufficient from the perspective of own resources. result . And even less so when the Government itself is the one that has reinforced capital requirements, even beyond what was required by the international Basel III Agreements. The status created by Royal Decree-Law 2/2011, of February 18, 2011, forces all the entities of credit to look for alternatives to raise capital. And to do so in a higher proportion if it is a savings bank (10% solvency ratio compared to the 8% that listed banks must have). And to look for them urgently, before September 30.

These alternatives, for most savings banks, involve their transformation into banks, an option rejected by many but imposed by the February Royal Decree-Law itself. And it is imposed whether the option is to go to the stock markets for private capital -as Bankia and Banca Cívica now intend to do- or whether the option is finally to go to the public capital of the FROB.

It is to be hoped for the good of all that the flotations of Bankia and Banca Cívica, sooner rather than later, are successfully completed. Beyond the reforms and improvements that are still necessary for the savings banks, it would be regrettable if they ended up being the victims of a status of international instability that they have not created and for which they are not responsible.