MADRID Jan 2 Spain is close to selling its
50.25 percent stake in Cesce, Europe's fourth-biggest credit
insurer, in a deal that values the company at 400 million euros
($551 million), three bankers with knowledge of the deal said.
Spanish insurers Mapfre and Mutua Madrilena, French
insurer Coface and at least one other international
insurer, have expressed interest in the asset, the sources told
Spain has few state enterprises left to sell after a big
wave of privatisations two decades ago. But as a result of the
country's financial and economic crisis of the last five years,
the government has looked at selling Cesce, airport operator
Aena and the state lottery company.
Cesce originally specialised in export credit insurance,
which protects a company if a foreign buyer fails to pay for
products. But it has now branched out into wider commercial risk
Banks including Spain's Santander and BBVA
own 45.85 percent of Cesce and Spanish insurance
companies hold the remaining 3.9 percent.
"It's about to go down. There won't be any trouble selling
it, there's a lot of interest in the asset," said one of the
bankers. All three of them declined to be named for this story.
Mutua's chief executive has said publicly the company is
interested in Cesce. Mapfre and Coface declined to comment.
A spokeswoman for Cesce did not respond to a request for
Spain's Secretary of State for Trade Jaime Garcia-Legaz said
in December that the sale of Cesce would be closed in 2014, but
without providing details. He has also said the Spanish state
was not interested in breaking up its Cesce stake, but in
selling it in one piece.
PWC is the financial advisor on the sale and Perez-Llorca
the legal advisors.
Cesce had after-tax profit of 27.4 million euros and net
equity at the end of 2012 of 319 million euros.
Spain is also consulting bankers about selling a minority
stake in airport operator Aena, but that sale is taking time
because the company is highly indebted and traffic at one of its
main airports, Madrid's Barajas, has slumped.
($1 = 0.7257 euros)
(Additional reporting by Fiona Ortiz and Jesus Aguado; Writing
by Fiona Ortiz; Editing by Erica Billingham)