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Spain’s CaixaBank makes bid for Portuguese lender BPI

Spain’s third-biggest lender CaixaBank said Tuesday it would launch a full takeover for Portuguese rival BPI, just months after it bought Barclays’ Spanish operations, as it seeks to expand abroad.

CaixaBank, which is already BPI’s biggest shareholder with a 44.1 percent stake, offered to pay 1.329 euros per share of the Portuguese bank which it does not already own.

The offer is 27 percent higher than BPI’s closing share price on Monday and it values Portugal’s second-largest listed bank at 1.5 billion euros ($1.7 billion).

“This is the first time that we do a cross-border acquisition of control,” CaixaBank Chief Executive Gonzalo Gortazar told analysts on a conference call.

Unlike its competitors Santander and BBVA, Barcelona-based CaixaBank has focused on the domestic market except for some minor stakes in lenders in Austria, France, Mexico and Hong Kong.

Shares in BPI jumped just over 25 percent to 1.30 euros in early afternoon trade on the Lisbon stock market while CaixaBank fell 0.58 percent to 4.08 euros in Madrid.

CaixaBank, one of the most acquisitive banks during the recent financial crisis, said its cash offer was dependent on obtaining the backing of at least 50 percent of BPI shareholders.

BPI must also eliminate an existing rule capping at 20 percent the voting rights of a specific shareholder, CaixaBank said in a regulatory filing.

“This transaction makes sense for us (as) we know BPI very well,” Gortazar said.

CaixaBank, which first invested in BPI in 1995, said the Portuguese lender would remain a listed company after the completion of the offer.

It said it would not rule out a capital increase to finance the operation.

– BPI backing for deal –

CaixaBank nearly doubled its net profit last year to 620 million euros, aided by a return to growth in Spain.

BPI has 1.7 million clients and nearly 6,000 employees in Portugal and 1.3 million clients and nearly 2,500 employees in Angola, an oil- and diamond-rich former Portuguese colony in southwestern Africa.

It posted a net loss of 162 million euros last year because of one-off tax and interest payments and losses on government bond sales.

But CaixaBank was optimistic about its outlook as Portugal posts modest growth after it exited a three-year, 78 billion euro bailout last May.

CaixaBank predicts the buyout of BPI will produce synergies worth 130 million euros a year from 2017. It says its bid has the backing of the Portuguese lender.

BPI has expressed interest in buying Novo Banco, the so-called good bank that groups together the healthy assets salvaged from the ruin of Banco Espirito Santo, rescued by the Portuguese state last year.

Portugal’s central bank has received 15 bids for Novo Banco and BPI is seen as leading the field.

“It’s an opportunity they should explore,” Gortazar said.

CaixaBank announced in August that it would buy Barclay’s Spanish operations for 800 million euros.

The sale includes Barclay’s retail banking, wealth and investment management and corporate banking businesses in Spain, and it involved the transfer of the British bank’s branches in the country to CaixaBank.

Last year CaixaBank, which bought several ailing savings banks bailed out by the government after the real estate slump, missed out on a chance to buy a local rival, state-owned Catalunya Banc, which was snapped up by BBVA in an auction.

CaixaBank employs more than 31,200 people and has 13.4 million customers.