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BRUSSELS, Dec 20 (Reuters) - Spain's Banco Mare Nostrum and three other banks secured EU regulatory approval on Thursday for their restructuring plans which include cutting their balance sheets by between 25 to more than 40 percent over the next five years and halting dividend payments.
The European Commission imposed the measures in return for approving the bailouts of savings banks BMN, Caja Espana-Caja Duero, Caja 3 and Liberbank which were hit by the collapse of a long property boom in 2008.
"The restructuring plans of BMN, Caja3, Banco CEISS and Liberbank will make these banks viable again, thereby contributing to restoring a healthy financial sector in Spain, while minimising the burden for the taxpayer," EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said in a statement.
The EU competition authority said the banks' shareholders will bear more than 2 billion euros of the restructuring costs. The lenders will also be barred from paying dividends.
Liberbank, CEISS and BMN will not be allowed to make acquisitions during the restructuring period. The Spanish government is making a 1.87-billion-euro cash injection into the four banks.
The restructurings are less severe than those of Bankia, Catalunya Banc and Novagalicia Banco, which will have to halve their balance sheets in five years and cut jobs.