CaixaBank and Bankia agreed late Thursday to merge in a deal that would form Spain’s largest bank and end the government’s majority control over Bankia, the institution that was at the heart of Spain’s financial crisis and 2012 banking bailout.
The all-share agreement was presented as a merger, but CaixaBank, which is based in Barcelona, will account for about two-thirds of the new bank’s combined assets, worth 665 billion euros, or $785 billion. The combined institution, with an expected 20 million customers, will keep the CaixaBank name.
The transaction comes after both banks have reported sharp drops in first-half earnings, at a time of record-low interest rates and as the coronavirus pandemic has plunged Spain into one of the deepest recessions in Europe.
Many analysts expect the continued pressure on banks’ margins to force further consolidation in the sector. A merger between CaixaBank and Bankia “could revive moves by other banks to gain scale or strengthen their franchises or business models to remain competitive,” Fitch Ratings said in a note to investors earlier this month.
Bankia was formed as a seven-way merger intended to consolidate savings banks, known as cajas in Spain, which were crippled by bad loans, a result of the bursting of the country’s construction bubble after the onset of the world financial crisis in 2008.
But instead of shoring up Spain’s financial sector, Bankia ended up posting the largest banking loss in the country’s history and requiring about €22 billion in rescue funding, as part of a European banking bailout that the Spanish government was forced to negotiate in 2012. As a result, the government also took over Bankia, which was then slimmed down to return it to profit.