Spain's Sabadell launches takeover for smaller rival

25th June 2010, Comments 0 comments

Spain's Banco Sabadell said Friday its board had agreed to launch a takeover for smaller rival Banco Guipuzcoano in the first such operation between two listed Spanish banks since the start of the financial crisis at the end of 2008.

Banco Sabadell is offering five shares and five mandatory convertible bonds for every eight ordinary shares of Guipuzcoano, it said in a statement.

Banco Guipuzcoano, which is based in Spain's northern Basque region, will retain its legal identity and operate as a separate brand, it added.

"Banco Guipuzcoano is an ideal candidate for inclusion in our group because of the similarity of our commercial approaches and because it strengthens Banco Sabadell's footprint in northern Spain," Banco Sabadell chairman Jose Oliu said in the statement.

Banco Sabadell is a nationwide lender with 84 billion euros (103.5 billion dollars) in assets, making it the country's seventh-largest financial institution.

By comparison Guipuzcoano, whose operations are focused in the wealthy Basque region, has just 10.3 billion euros in assets.

Earlier this month the two lenders announced they were studying a merger.

Banco Sabadell's takeover offer comes at a time of massive consolidation amongst Spain's regional saving banks, which have born the brunt of the collapse of the country property market at the end of 2008.

Spanish banks got off relatively lightly from the global credit crunch in 2008 as the country's strict rules meant they did not invest heavily in the high-risk US home loans that hurt financial institutions elsewhere.

But many regional savings banks have been badly exposed to bad debt since the collapse of the property sector at the end of 2008.

The government has encouraged their consolidation in order to maintain liquidity.

The Bank of Spain's proposal to tighten rules on provisions the lenders have to make against real estate assets on their balance sheets has added to the pressure on regional savings banks to merge.

The regional savings banks, many of which are owned by regional politicians, account for about half of all lending in Spain.

Shares in Banco Sabadell closed up 0.3 percent at 3.63 euros while Guipuzcoano closed down 1.2 percent at 4.90 euros.

-- Dow Jones Newswires contributed to this report --

© 2010 AFP

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