By Julien Toyer
MADRID Jan 17 Bailed-out Spanish lender Bankia
on Friday booked a 64 million euro ($87 million) gain
on the sale of its 12.6 percent stake in NH Hoteles,
part of efforts to strengthen its capital ahead of European
stress tests on banks this year.
Spain's banks have in recent months heavily sold down the
big stakes they built up in the country's main companies during
a decade-long economic boom, in order both to raise funds and
focus on fixing their banking business.
Bankia - which had announced the planned NH Hoteles sale
late on Thursday - has so far sold investments worth 2.4 billion
euros it had in insurer Mapfre, airline IAG
and technology firm Indra.
Other lenders such as Santander, BBVA,
Popular and CaixaBank MC> have sold stakes in
domestic companies, investments in international peers, foreign
units and property management arms to strengthen their capital
bases and address new regulatory demands.
Some of them have also reduced the cash component of the
dividend they pay to shareholders and booked new provisions on
refinanced loans in order to present a better balance sheet to
the European Central Bank when it reviews their assets.
Although the Bank of Spain and the Economy Ministry have
said Spanish lenders are well placed ahead of the stress tests,
many are expected to keep divesting.
Bankia still holds stakes in Spanish firms worth 2.1 billion
euros, including 5 percent of utility Iberdrola worth
some 1.5 billion.
Spain holds a 68.4 percent stake in the lender following its
post-credit crunch bailout and has stepped up contacts with
bankers recently over selling part of its holding, raising the
idea of a small share offering as soon as the first quarter,
Reuters reported earlier this week.
Caixabank, which on Thursday sold a 5 percent stake in stock
market operator BME, has even bigger investments. It
holds big stakes in Gas Natural, Repsol,
Telefonica and Abertis.