(Adds details on Spanish state's funding for the deal)
MADRID, July 17 Blackstone has bought a
big mortgage portfolio from Spain's nationalised Catalunya Banc
for 3.615 billion euros ($5 billion), in a deal backed by fresh
state funds as the government prepares to sell the bank.
The package of mostly problem home loans, worth 6.4 billion
euros at face value, is the biggest of its type ever sold in
Europe, according to Spain's FROB, the agency which handles the
state's holdings in rescued banks.
The agency is expected to pick a buyer for Catalunya Banc
itself by the end of this week, now that the lender has been
slimmed down via the sale of the loans to the U.S. private
Spain had to ask Europe for 41.3 billion euros in 2012 to
shore up banks like Catalunya Banc that were unable to cope with
a property market slump.
It has already failed twice to sell Barcelona-based
Catalunya Banc through auctions, even after handing it 12
billion euros to rebuild its capital.
Potential buyers - including top players in Spain such as
Santander and BBVA - had wanted more state
aid or guarantees to shield them from the lender's soured loans.
The government has ended up giving in to these demands for
more cash, though the funds will not go directly to Catalunya
Banc as capital, or to buyers.
The FROB said on Thursday it would back the portfolio sale
with 572 million euros, effectively buying part of it, to make
up for a shortfall between the price Blackstone is paying and
the value of the loans on the bank's books.
Catalunya Banc said it had 2.2 billion euros in provisions
against losses on the 6.4 billion euros in mortgages. It said
the remaining 4.2 billion euros will be shifted into a special
purpose vehicle, which will issue bonds to Blackstone and the
FROB, confirming an earlier Reuters report.
Spain could get some money back through this formula if the
mortgages perform well.
About 43 percent of the mortgages are non-performing,
meaning borrowers have missed payments for over three months,
sources close to the deal have previously said. Another 17
percent are in danger of falling into that category.
Catalunya Banc said its core capital ratio would reach 14.9
percent, well above the minimums demanded by regulators, after
($1 = 0.7394 Euros)
(Reporting By Sonya Dowsett and Sarah White; Editing by
Inmaculada Sanz and Jane Merriman)