(Adds details, background)
MADRID May 21 Spain's Liberbank, which
needed government support during the country's banking crisis,
said on Wednesday it was launching an accelerated share sale
ahead of a rights issue, which together aim to raise up to 575
million euros ($786 million).
The bank, based in the north of Spain, said it was raising
funds to repay state aid and to help it strengthen its capital
ratios under international rules.
Banks across Europe are selling assets, cutting lending or
raising capital to bolster their financial strength as they face
Europe-wide health checks this year.
Liberbank said it would sell about 375 million shares
through an accelerated bookbuilding offer, due to be completed
by Thursday. Its controlling shareholders, a group of savings
banks, will sell some of their existing stock in the offering
and the bank will also issue around 120 million of new shares.
The process will allow the savings banks to reinvest the
funds they raise - around 200 million euros, according to
Reuters calculations based on Liberbank's share price - in the
subsequent rights issue. Their combined stake will fall to just
under 50 percent from 66 percent, the bank said.
Liberbank said it already had commitments covering part of
the accelerated share sale, from two Mexican private investment
groups - Inmosan and Davinci Capital - and existing Spanish
shareholder Corporacion Masaveu.
These firms will hold about 12 percent of Liberbank after
the transactions, a source familiar with the matter said.
Spain's government recently passed a reform of the country's
savings banks, or 'cajas', which makes it more costly for them
to keep majority stakes in underlying commercial banks.
The 'cajas', many of which have now disappeared or been
absorbed by bigger banks, were crippled by property investments
that turned sour after a 2008 housing crash. Their problems
pushed Spain to ask Europe for 41.3 billion euros in rescue
funds two years ago for the financial sector.
Liberbank took 124 million euros in aid, in the form of
bonds that can be converted into capital.
The bank said it would issue about 1 billion shares in a
rights issue after the share sale, and aimed to raise between
400 million and 475 million euros through that operation.
Liberbank's stock closed 2.8 percent down at 0.86 euros per
share on Wednesday. ($1 = 0.7318 Euros)
(Reporting by Sarah White, Tomas Cobos and Jesus Aguado;
Editing by Sonya Dowsett and Jane Merriman)