MADRID, March 12 Spain's Catalunya Banc is
making a second attempt to sell its property management
division, five sources familiar with the deal said, as the
nationalised lender seeks to get into better shape ahead of its
Catalunya Banc is in talks with Magic Real Estate, a local
investment firm set up by Ismael Clemente who previously ran
Deutsche Bank's property unit in Spain, the sources said.
The bank is also trying to sell a 1.5 billion euro ($2.1
billion) portfolio of soured loans and a network of 200 offices
outside its core Catalonia region, two of the sources said, as
it steps up asset sales.
Catalunya Banc, which received part of a 41 billion European
rescue in 2012 of Spanish lenders gutted by a real estate crash,
is the biggest bank still in state hands after Bankia.
The government has struggled to auction off the
Barcelona-based bank and a sale in early 2013 was abandoned when
bidders asked for extra state aid to protect them against its
The sale of Catalunya Banc's division, which manages about 8
billion euros of real estate loans and properties that have
mostly been transferred to an external "bad bank", would likely
be worth less than 100 million euros, one of the sources said.
But it may help the bank get into a better position before
the government attempts to sell it again.
Catalunya Banc had previously agreed to sell its property
manager to U.S. investment funds Kennedy Wilson and Varde
Partners last August, but that deal fell apart.
Magic Real Estate could not be reached for comment and
Catalunya Banc declined to comment on Thursday.
Many Spanish banks, including Santander and Bankia,
have put these types of units on the block in recent months or
contracted them out to funds such as Apollo Global Management
or Cerberus, capitalising on interest from foreign
investors hungry for deals after the six-year property slump.
Kennedy Wilson and Varde Partners bought just over half of
Popular 's real estate management unit last December.
Such deals usually hand the investment firms the contracts
to manage the property assets, but do not actually include the
real estate on bank's books.
Magic Real Estate last year partnered U.S. firm Blackstone
to buy several apartment blocks from the city of Madrid.
Three of the sources said Blackstone may also have a role in the
Catalunya Banc deal, although it was not clear in what capacity.
Blackstone declined to comment.
"It will still be good for the bank to advance with its
plans to shrink and restructure operations even if the
privatisation doesn't get off the ground this year," one of the
people familiar with the deals said, adding that the government
was still keen to try and sell the whole bank in 2014.
Spain's bank restructuring fund FROB, which manages the
state's stakes in banks, declined to comment.