Francisco López | Lately, the Spanish banks are receiving a huge amount of buy recommendations from analysts. Some experts are asking whether there are some sound reasons to bet on banking stocks now, apart from the fact that the majority of their share prices are attractive.
Articles by Francisco López
About the Author
These are not good times for IPOs. Telefónica has been obliged to cancel the IPO of its infrastructure affiliate Telxius, with the agreement of the placement banks. With the stock market listing, Telefonica had hoped to reduce its hefty debt pile of over 52 billion euros. But market pressure has forced it to backtrack. Telefónica’s shares opened down 4% on Friday. So far this year, the shares have still lost over 8%.
Banco Popular has had no other option but to take drastic measures to get itself out of a jam. The huge amount of impaired property assets on its balance sheet has forced the bank to make two capital hikes worth 5 billion euros, restructure the organisation, which includes the appointment of a new CEO and announce that it will lay off 3,000 employees and close 300 branches.
The Spanish banking sector earned 28% less in the first six months of the year, it has profitability problems and has seen almost half of its stock market value wiped off in the last two years. But there are two indicators which inspire optimism in the medium-term: bad loans continue to fall and there has been a strong rise in consumer credit as well as in lending to non-property companies.
There has been a lot of song and dance about extending the ‘Junker Plan’ to promote investments of up to 630 billion euros over the next six years. But the fact is that, up to now, projects worth 116 billion euros have been approved under the auspices of the Plan, according to the European Commission (EC)’s own estimates.
The recent uptick in long-term debt rates, with the German bund leading the way, is not only due to investors’ disappointment after the last ECB meeting. Experts highlight other factors such as the global economy’s slightly better-than-forecast performance and the expectations for a generalised round of fiscal stimuli in key economic areas. Public debt for financing this expansion would increase and this exerts upward pressure on the rate curve.
This week Telefonica has been one of the main protagonists of the Spanish stock market. Firstly, it confirmed to bourse regulator CNMV that it will launch an IPO of between 25% and 50% of its infrastructure affiliate Telxius. And secondly, that it is finalising the partial sale of its UK subsidiary O2.
In recent times, hardly anything ever happens in the Spanish stock market. There are practically no IPOs or shareholder squabbles to attract investors’ attention. So when there is even a slight movement, like the possible sale of 20% of Gas Natural by majority shareholders Repsol and La Caixa, it shakes the market up more than normal.
As we have already said there are moments when the economic and political cycles don’t go hand in hand. Yesterday, the investiture of caretaker Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy got underway, with very slight possibilities of his being able to win enough votes to return to office with a majority. But the Ibex 35 blue chip index didn’t even move: in fact it posted a nearly 1% gain.
Alarm bells are sounding across Europe over the possibility of Spain being a year without a government. Even the international press is calling for an end to the political deadlock in its editorials. But the concern has yet to reach the markets: the day before the start of a new investiture process in Spain, which could end in failure, the country’s risk premium remained below 100 basis points and the Ibex 35 blue-chip index lost hardly any ground, in line with the performance of its European peers.