CaixaBank (MCE: CABK.MC) – market cap as of 2/10/2020: €10.3bn
Bankia (MCE: BKIA.MC) – market cap as of 2/10/2020: €3.55bn
On the 18th of September, CaixaBank, a Spanish financial company, agreed to acquire in an all-share deal Bankia, a Spanish bank, valuing it at €4.3bn, a 36% premium with respect to the bank’s closing price on the 3rd of September. The joint group, with more than 20m customers and €664bn in Assets, will become Spain’s largest lender with a 25% market share and is expected to achieve revenues and costs synergies for a total value of more than €1bn per annum. The Spanish government, the largest shareholder of Bankia, through its arm, FROB, chose to sell at the price offered by CaixaBank, although it’s becoming common opinion that Caixa could have paid more. The government had a mandate to sell its Bankia stake down by the end of 2021, and this deal will reduce its majority position heavily to about 16 per cent.
This deal confirms the start of the long-awaited consolidation in Europe’s banking sector, where banks are reeling from intense competition and the fallout from negative interest rates and only few have succeeded in executing mergers to reduce overcapacity and increase profits.
CaixaBank was originally founded in 2007 as Criteria CaixaCorp, a publicly traded vehicle for La Caixa’s shareholdings and investments and at the time of its 2007 debut, the Criteria CaixaCorp initial public offering was the largest-ever in Spain.
In 2011, after parent group La Caxia’s restructuring, Criteria was renamed CaixaBank and in 2012 and 2013 CaixaBank was involved in two of the most important deals in the Spanish banking industry: first, it merged with Banca Civica (creating the largest bank in Spain) and then it acquired Banco de Valencia for the nominal fee of 1 euro after FROB (Fund for Orderly Bank Restructuring)’s €4.5 funds injection.
Nowadays CaixaBank, with strong Catalan roots even if now officially based in Valencia, is one of the Spanish leading financial groups with €390bn in Assets, a market value of more than €12.4bn and a €1.5bn Net Income, as well as 3,846 branches and more than 35,000 employees in Spain. Moreover, it also includes banking businesses and investments in international banks and leading companies in the services industry.
Lastly, contrary to most of the Spanish banks (Bankia included), CaixaBank is not state-owned: in fact, La Caixa Foundation, one of Europe’s biggest charities, is Caixa Bank’s largest shareholder with a 40% stake in the group.
Formed through a merger of seven struggling regional savings banks in December 2010, Bankia is the fourth largest bank of Spain with total assets of €179bn. In 2011 Bankia stated that instead of a profit of €309 million, it had lost €4.3 billion before taxes, and asked for €1.4 billion fiscal credit to reduce its loss. Being in the midst of the European sovereign-debt crisis and in response to growing concerns, Standard & Poor’s downgraded its rating of Bankia’s creditworthiness to BB+, making it a junk bond. The Spanish government was forced to seek EU aid to fund a bailout to prevent the bank from collapsing, thus making an equity injection of €4.47bn and providing a liquidity guarantee of €19 billion.
After having received state aid, many limitations were imposed in order to solve the remaining financial problems: shareholders had to share part of the burden of the capital injection, the balance sheet had to be reduced, dividends were restricted until 2014, and both the branch network and workforce had to be reduced by more than 30%.
In 2017, Bankia ended its 5-year restructuring and began a new growth period, marked by both the end of the limitations imposed by the European Commission and the €825M merger with BMN. Finally, Bankia ended 2019 as the best commercial year in its history and as the market leader for solvency among Spain’s largest banks, with a €541ml profit and a 13% capital ratio (well above the regulatory minimum).
In 2020, The COVID-19 pandemic has ravaged the European financial services sector, sending shockwaves across the FIG M&A landscape. According to a KPMG report on global banking M&A, in Q2’20 the average LTM P/E has declined from 12.3x in Q2’19 to 10.3x in Q2’20, the P/B from 1.2x in Q2’19 to 0.8x in Q2’20, and the ROAE from 9.8% in Q2’19 to 8.4% in Q2’20. The high volatility in financial markets and the uncertainty over business resilience have caused the M&A activity in the banking industry to decline by approximately 21% in the first quarter of the year, compared with that of the previous year. However, one example of a deal closed in the first quarter of the year is the combination of Italy’s Intesa Sanpaolo with Unione di Banche Italiane. On July 30th, Intesa Sanpaolo positively concluded a tender offer on UBI’ shares, valuing UBI at €4.2bn; Intesa agreed to sell 532 branches to BPER Banca, which is expected to be completed by year-end. This combination will create the seventh-largest bank in the Eurozone with €950bn in total assets and it is expected to create €730m in annual synergies by 2024.
However, banking M&A activities are expected to increase in the second half of the year, primarily driven by domestic consolidation aimed at improving bank efficiency and at creating larger scale in order to compete with international peers.
KPMG industry report has identified the main impacts of COVID-19 on banking M&A, that can be summarized as follows:
- general acceleration in global domestic M&A, with the objective of increased operating efficiency at the national level in order to compete worldwide
- increase in rescues, restructurings and nationalization deals, as governments and central banks inject liquidity
- significant growth in the amount of NPL, in particular for banks with high exposure to stressed industries (hotels, restaurants, travel, oil & gas, etc.), that could serve as a potential opportunity for asset management companies and PE investors
- boost for digital solutions and wave of fintech acquisitions by traditional players, as digital companies scale up their capabilities, while banks innovate to increase their operational efficiency
- revival of distressed M&A, as investors seize the opportunity of acquiring financial institutions trading at a deep discount
So, does scale generate superior performance among banks? Interestingly, according to the McKinsey Global Banking Annual Review of 2019, banks with leading in-country market share enjoy a ROTE premium compared to peers. Indeed, there is no statistically significant relationship between size and ROTE for the top 15 global banks by assets, but broken down by scale in individual markets, the correlation with market share stands out. This implies that the most successful banks have an optimal scale within a given geography, that is, a local, regional, or national market, mainly because these institutions can specialize on a country-specific financial regulation and on certain kinds of customers. In Europe, for example, the lack of market integration in financial services reduces significantly cross-European synergies: financial institutions are mainly subject to different national regulations so that banks which conduct cross-European business usually maintain full-service banks as subsidiaries.
In this industry, M&A is, for several reasons, an extremely efficient way to achieve scale and gain competitive advantage. First, there is a large dispersion in valuations and capital levels across the banking system, creating an ideal environment for inorganic moves. Second, with systemic risk in banking largely mitigated through capital and liquidity build-ups since the global financial crisis, and fragmented banking sectors in many markets struggling to produce returns, regulators are more likely to be supportive of consolidation. Third, the need for large- scale investments in technological transformation, combined with weak organic growth, is pushing M&A upon the board agenda.
In Europe, regulators are trying to encourage banking M&A. In particular, the ECB has launched a public consultation on a new Guide detailing its supervisory approach to EU banking consolidation projects. For the ECB, being the profitability and sustainability of banks’ business models among the priorities in 2020, bank consolidation can play an important role in removing excess capacity, enhancing cost efficiency (improving return on equity), and promoting more focused and credible business models. Under the Guide, the ECB will:
- not automatically penalize proposed M&A transactions by applying higher capital requirements; the starting point for capital will be the weighted average of the two banks’ capital requirements
- generally, permit the use of badwill (i.e., the accounting gain generated by the acquisition of assets at a price lower than their fair value, aka negative goodwill) to meet regulatory capital requirements
- accept the temporary use of existing internal models to determine regulatory capital requirements, subject to credible model mapping and rollout plans to address the specific internal model issues created through the merger
CaixaBank has reached an agreement to combine with state-owned Bankia, becoming Spain’s biggest bank by loans, assets and deposits. The deal is sought to be fully paid in shares. Shareholders of Bankia will receive 0.6845 new CaixaBank ordinary shares for every Bankia share, valuing Bankia at about €4.3bn, according to Jefferies analysts. The agreed price includes a premium of 20% over the exchange ratio at the closing of 3rd September, before the market was notified of the negotiations around the operation. Besides, it represents a premium of 28% over the average exchange ratio of the last three months.
The main shareholder in the new entity will be the Caixa Foundation via its holding company Criteria Caixa with a 30% stake, down from the 40.02% stake that it currently has in CaixaBank. The government, which is the majority shareholder in Bankia, will see its shareholding diluted from 61.81% to about 16.1% in the combined business.
The combined entity resulting from the merger will be chaired by José Ignacio Goirigolzarri, Bankia’s current chairman, once he is appointed by the new CaixaBank Board of Directors. The current CEO of CaixaBank, Gonzalo Gortázar, will continue as chief executive of the resulting entity reporting directly to the Board of Directors. The Board of Directors will be made up of 15 members, of which 60% will be independent and 33% will be women.
The new entity will maintain the CaixaBank brand. The operation is expected to close during the first quarter of 2021, once all the relevant regulatory authorizations are received.
In the past decade banks across Europe have been struggling with the intense competition and the fallout from negative interest rates and some are now undergoing mergers and acquisitions to ease their positions and hedge their risks, which have increased due to the pandemic, especially for the country such as Spain which are heavy reliant on tourism. As a result, CaixaBank and Bankia merger made sense also against the backdrop of the pandemic in addition to other structural difficulties faced by Eurozone lenders, including the shift to digital banking, low interest rates and high capital requirements.
Through this acquisition, the combined entity is expected to achieve €1.1bn per annum in synergies, of which €770M of cost synergies to be achieved by 2023 and €290M of revenues synergies. The deal is expected to be accretive in the next couple of years with EPS improving by 17% while and the combined entity is predicted to have a CET1 ratio of 11.5%. Furthermore, Bankia trades at approximately .3x its book value, which is half of Caixa’s. This means that an all share deal at a zero or an unexceptional premium increases CaixaBank’s total asset base at a cheap cost. This combination will generate new sources of income following renegotiations of contracts/agreements signed by Bankia in the insurance section which will eventually lead to a better-quality portfolio of products and services to the larger customer base that they can now target. In addition to this, consolidation of the headquarters and IT spending would decrease overhead costs as about 80% of Bankia’s branches sit within 1km of a CaixaBank outlet. Benjie Creelan-Sandford, an analyst at Jefferies predicted that the CaixaBank-Bankia deal could slash up to 40% of Bankia’s cost-base through branch closures as well as job losses.
This combination will grow CaixaBank’s balance sheet, leading it to tower over its peers with total assets of more than €650bn compared to competitors such as BBVA (€419.5bn) or Santander (€355.8bn). Moreover, CaixaBank will now have an astounding quantity of loans and advances, amounting to €343.6bn whereas its rivals such as BBVA or Santander have €176.6bn and €203.8bn respectively. However, it is important to denote that although CaixaBank will now dominate the Spanish banking industry, it does not have as strong of an international presence (overseas operations) that its competitors have. This merger will also allow CaixaBank, which already has a strong presence in Catalonia, to extend its presence and operations into Spain’s capital, Madrid, permitting the bank to reach a larger customer and corporate base.
On the other hand, the annual cost savings, taxed and capitalized, are valued around €5.5bn, which represents more than double the implied premium CaixaBank offered to Bankia shareholder which would be 36% to the bank’s closing price on the 3rd of September (the last day before a potential deal was reported). This of course means that there is a significant portion of money being left on the table by Bankia’s minority shareholders. In addition to this, the government had a noteworthy ownership percentage in Bankia due to its 2012 bailout and through this deal, its majority position will be reduced to approximately 16%, especially since it had a mandate to reduce (through selling) its stake by the end of 2021. There was €1.9bn in excess capital which could have been a dividend but will instead be used to bolster the combined entity’s balance sheet.
In conclusion, this merger would push CaixaBank to the position of largest Spanish bank (in total assets) and to the biggest lender. The synergies demonstrate that this merger will add value to both shareholders and customers by increasing levels of efficiency and profitability.
On September 4th, when the two Spanish lenders confirmed that they were discussing a potential merger, the shares in CaixaBank and Bankia rose suddenly: shares in CaixaBank, the larger (acquiring) company rose by 15% up to €2.08 and shares of Bankia, the smaller (target) company, gained approximately 29% reaching €1.34, thus fully incorporating the implied premium in the price, which is an incredibly optimistic reaction.
The announcement of a potential merger boosted shares’ prices in rivals such as Bankinter and Banco de Sabadell, whose stocks’ prices rose by about 6% and 11% respectively. This raise in share price was likely caused by the speculation that such agreement would stimulate a larger amount of deal making in the industry, not only in Spain but also Europe in general. In fact, also banks located in other countries witnessed stocks’ prices increase such as Société Générale’s and BNP’s approximately 5% increase, Bank of Ireland’s 5.4% and Commerzbank’s 8%.
On September 18th, when the deal was officially confirmed , the shares of the two banks moved very little: CaixaBank’s increased by 0.1% and Bankia’s tumbled 1%. However, during the following days Bankia’s share price dropped by as much as 8.1% because in an all-stock deal the target’s shareholders will become shareholder of the combined entity and if they are not confident that the current market price of the buyer is deserved or if they have little confidence in the merger they will try to sell. This explains the significant drop in price, thus it is evident that Bankia’s shareholders overreacted on September 4th and the stock is now correcting to the expectations.
Morgan Stanley acted as CaixaBank’s financial advisor while Rothschild & Co acted as Bankia’s financial advisor.