January 12, 2015 / 5:15 PM / 6 years ago

Soros bought into Santander share sale, raising bet on Spain

MADRID (Reuters) - George Soros bought into a fundraising by Santander (SAN.MC) last week, a source familiar with the matter said on Monday, in the latest bet by the U.S. billionaire on Spanish banks and companies trying to ride an economic recovery.

George Soros speaks on stage at the Annual Freedom Award Benefit Event hosted by the International Rescue Committee at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York November 6, 2013. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

Soros Fund Management took part in Santander’s 7.5-billion-euro ($8.9 billion) share sale, completed over several hours last Thursday, with a 500-million-euro investment, the source said, speaking anonymously because the matter isn’t public.

The fund and Santander declined to comment. El Mundo newspaper earlier reported Soros’ participation in the capital raising.

An investment of that size would give Soros’ fund a roughly 0.66 percent stake in the euro zone’s biggest bank, according to calculations using Thomson Reuters data, although these do not take into account the new shares to be issued.

The U.S. financier emerged last year as one of the most prominent investors to put money into Spain following a prolonged economic downturn.

Soros bought into lender Bankia (BKIA.MC), once the symbol of the country’s deep financial crisis, when the government began selling down its controlling stake after a bailout.

He also invested in state-rescued Liberbank (LBK.MC), in a real estate vehicle listed in Spain last year in the wake of a property market slump, and in building group FCC (FCC.MC), although Soros later passed on a chance to substantially increase that stake.

Santander’s new chief Ana Botin last Thursday continued her shake-up at the bank with the capital hike and a dividend cut, saying it was to help fund the group’s expansion. Shares in the lender were placed at 6.18 euros each.

The bank’s stock closed down 14 percent the following day, after reaching a 13-month low, and marking the biggest percentage fall in 16 years. Santander shares were trading up 1.8 percent to 5.99 euros per share at about 1120 ET on Monday.

About 50 percent of the Santander share placement was sold to U.S. investors, a source close to the matter told Reuters last week.

($1 = 0.8460 euros)

Reporting by Jennifer Ablan in New York and Jesus Aguado in Madrid; Writing by Sarah White; Editing by Julien Toyer and Mark Potter

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