Barclays seeks Spanish state guarantee to buy caja assets

BARCLAYS is considering a bid for assets owned by three recently nationalised Spanish savings banks (cajas).

Following its preliminary bid for the nationalised Caja Mediterráneo, Barclays is now leafing through the portfolios of CatalunyaCaixa, NovaCaixaGalicia and Unnim.

All three were all taken over by the Bank of Spain last month after failing to raise enough capital to comply with regulations.

But Barclays will only make firm offers if it can be sure of state guarantees for some of the dodgy assets in the lenders’ portfolios, despite chief executive Bob Diamond’s public position that banks should never have their risky lending decisions underwritten by taxpayers.

It is not clear how much Barclays might pay for the assets: one of the targets, NovaCaixaGalicia, was originally seeking a €2bn (1.75bn) cash injection from a foreign investor, but failed to raise the money before the regulatory deadline. CatalunyaCaixa was seeking €1.72bn in capital before it was nationalised.

But Barclays would buy only chunks of the assets, rather than inject billions to resuscitate whole lenders. Spain is currently restructuring its entire banking sector, which is still plagued by non-performing property loans and was downgraded by S&P.