By Julien Toyer
MADRID, Jan 17 (Reuters) - Bailed-out Spanish lender Bankia on Friday booked a 64 million euro ($87 million) gain on the sale of its 12.6 percent stake in NH Hoteles, part of efforts to strengthen its capital ahead of European stress tests on banks this year.
Spain’s banks have in recent months heavily sold down the big stakes they built up in the country’s main companies during a decade-long economic boom, in order both to raise funds and focus on fixing their banking business.
Bankia - which had announced the planned NH Hoteles sale late on Thursday - has so far sold investments worth 2.4 billion euros it had in insurer Mapfre, airline IAG and technology firm Indra.
Other lenders such as Santander, BBVA, Popular and CaixaBank MC> have sold stakes in domestic companies, investments in international peers, foreign units and property management arms to strengthen their capital bases and address new regulatory demands.
Some of them have also reduced the cash component of the dividend they pay to shareholders and booked new provisions on refinanced loans in order to present a better balance sheet to the European Central Bank when it reviews their assets.
Although the Bank of Spain and the Economy Ministry have said Spanish lenders are well placed ahead of the stress tests, many are expected to keep divesting.
Bankia still holds stakes in Spanish firms worth 2.1 billion euros, including 5 percent of utility Iberdrola worth some 1.5 billion.
Spain holds a 68.4 percent stake in the lender following its post-credit crunch bailout and has stepped up contacts with bankers recently over selling part of its holding, raising the idea of a small share offering as soon as the first quarter, Reuters reported earlier this week.
Caixabank, which on Thursday sold a 5 percent stake in stock market operator BME, has even bigger investments. It holds big stakes in Gas Natural, Repsol, Telefonica and Abertis.