Bankia Lures Foreigners With $1.4 Billion Debt Sale

Bloomberg

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Bankia
Bankia

Bankia SA, the Spanish bank whose losses forced the government to seek a European bailout, sold twice as much debt as planned in its first issue of senior bonds amid a surge in demand from foreign investors.

The bank doesn't need to return to markets this year to cover redemptions, chief financial officer Leopoldo Alvear said in a telephone interview Thursday after the lender sold $1.4 billion of unsecured debt.

Still, after demand amounted to $4.8 billion, of which 85 percent came from foreign and mostly from long-term investors, it may return to the market if conditions allow.

"If we see there are opportunities in the market and the market continues to perform well for peripheral issuers, particularly Spanish banks and Bankia, we will make the most of them," he said.

Formed from a merger of seven former savings banks, the Valencia-based lender became a symbol of Spain's banking crisis when its nationalization threatened to overwhelm government finances in 2012, pushing the country into a European banking bailout. Shareholders were all but wiped out and junior debt holders, many of whom were clients, also sustained losses as a condition of the European aid.

A Bankia share sale to the public in 2011 that was encouraged by the government relied on domestic investors and the lenders' clients. The bank was nationalized a year later and the government put former Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria SA chief operating office Jose Ignacio Goirigolzarri in charge.

Less than two years on, amid a surge in Spanish sovereign debt prices and the nation's stocks, Bankia sold senior debt for the first time. The lender, which has transferred $30.5 billion of soured property assets to Spain's bad bank while selling assets and cutting jobs, sold the five-year unsecured bonds at 235 basis points over mid-swaps. About 12 percent of the demand came from hedge funds, with the rest from fund managers, insurance companies and banks, Alvear said.

As Spain crawls out of a five-year economic slump, credit continues to shrink. Alvear said demand for loans would pick up in the second half of the year.

"We expect demand for credit to be more or less stable in the first half compared with the end of last year and then we'll see an increase in the second half," he said.

Asked if the government would make the most of buoyant share prices to sell Bankia, Alvear said it was up to the state bailout fund FROB to decide.

"We haven't had any formal conversations with the FROB about that," he said.

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