March 26, 2011 / 2:32 PM / 7 years ago

Norway fund plans to invest in smaller Spanish banks

* World’s second biggest sovereign fund looks at Spain

* Central bank manager declines to put figure on investment

MADRID, March 26 (Reuters) - Norway’s $544-billion sovereign wealth fund is planning to invest in Spanish companies, including smaller banks, a Norwegian central bank spokesman said on Saturday, but she declined to say how much it would invest.

“We are planning to invest in Spanish companies including smaller Spanish banks,” the spokesman told Reuters on Saturday.

She could not say if the investment would include Spain’s regional savings banks, which are undergoing a wide-ranging restructuring.

The Spanish government has ordered the savings banks, known as ‘cajas’, to boost their capital levels under a law aimed at reassuring markets on the stability of the financial system and addressing fears Spain may need an Ireland-style bail-out.

The savings banks have until March 28 to present their plans on how they plan to raise funds, whether it be a stock market listing, private equity investment or application to the state fund for bank restructuring.

The Norwegian central bank is the manager of the world’s second largest sovereign wealth fund after that of the United Arab Emirates. The fund seeks no controlling stakes with maximum ownership in a single company at a 10 percent limit.

The Bank of Spain has ordered cajas seeking private investment to get more than 20 percent equity ownership by any potential investor or face nationalisation.

Qatar promised 300 million euros ($425 million) of investment for the savings banks in February and Abu Dhabi has said it will invest 150 million euros in one unnamed savings bank.

The Bank of Spain has estimated the capital shortfall of Spain’s banking system at 15 billion euros.

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