| MADRID, March 26
MADRID, March 26 Spanish lender Liberbank
, which needed help during the financial crisis, said on
Wednesday it was planning a 500 million-euro ($690 million)
rights issue share offer.
As well as repaying government aid, which would open the way
to resuming dividend payments, the bank said it wanted to
strengthen its capital base.
Banks across the euro zone are busy overhauling their
balance sheets in preparation for the regulatory health checks
due to be conducted before the European Central Bank takes over
as their supervisor at the end of 2014.
One of Spain's smaller surviving banks by market share,
Liberbank managed to avoid nationalisation in 2012 after the
property market crash lumbered lenders with soured loans and
left many short of capital.
But it took 124 million euros of aid in the form of bonds
that can convert into equity when Spain was forced to take a
41.3 billion-euro European rescue package to help its weakest
banks. Liberbank has until 2015 to repay the bonds, which were
bought by Spain's bank restructuring fund FROB.
Liberbank wants to issue 900 million new shares, at 0.30
euros per share plus a premium that has yet to be set. The
lender said in a statement it would put the capital raising
plans to shareholders at its annual general meeting on April 29.
Liberbank's existing shares, which have risen 23 percent
this year, were trading down 6 percent at 0.836 euros by 1028
The lender, created in 2011 by the merger of several savings
banks from northern and central Spain, was listed on Madrid's
stock exchange last year after it swapped subordinated debt and
preference shares for equity.
The bank is barred from paying any dividends until it has
repaid the state aid.
The country's biggest bailed-out lender, Bankia,
said last week it hoped to resume dividend payments next year,
on 2014 earnings, marking another milestone in its recovery.
The state sold down part of its majority stake in Bankia in
February, turning a small profit, though Spain is unlikely to
recover all the funds poured into its banks. Some nationalised
banks were sold off for a fraction of what it cost to rescue
(Editing by Greg Mahlich)