Spain’s banking bailout fund FROB surpasses 50% stake in bad bank Sareb

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FILE PHOTO: Anti-eviction activists stick a banner reading "Sareb evicts" against a wall as they wait for an eviction in Madrid

MADRID – Spain’s state rescue fund FROB has increased its stake in the country’s “bad bank” Sareb to more than 50%, in line with a European Union order to count its liabilities as public debt.

FROB said on Tuesday it had bought a 4.24% stake in Sareb, set up in 2012 to take on bad loans after the financial crisis, to raise its holding to 50.14%. No price was given but several sources with knowledge of the matter said it was merely symbolic.

The move comes after the government in January approved a legal framework allowing FROB to surpass the 50% threshold in Sareb following the EU order.

FROB didn’t say which banks had sold their stakes but a source at Sareb said some smaller holders, such as Bankinter, had tendered their stakes. Bankinter declined comment.

Santander remains the biggest private shareholder with a 22.2% stake, followed by Caixabank with 12.2%.

Several Spanish banks have been planning to sell their stakes in Sareb, which has struggled since its creation as a slump in real estate prices has depressed the value of loans and assets, but most had retained their holdings for tax reasons.

After selling 17.1 billion euros of all debt issued, Sareb still holds 33.7 billion euros in senior debt.

(Reporting by Jesús Aguado; Editing by David Holmes)