Two of Spain’s largest banks, CaixaBank and Bankia, are in talks regarding a possible merger, it has been confirmed by both financial institutions.
A merged CaixaBank-Bankia would hold €650 billion in assets, and become Spain’s largest lender by market share in domestic loans and deposits, but still lack the extensive international operations of Santander and BBVA.
In a statement on Thursday evening, CaixaBank confirmed that ‘a confidentiality agreement has been signed to exchange information’ and assess a possible merger.
CaixaBank counted 355 billion euros in assets in 2019, while Bankia had 208 billion euros.
Spain’s economic affairs ministry explained that a team in the Fund for Orderly Bank Restructuring (FROB) – the public body managing the resolution processes of credit institutions and investment firms – is ‘permanently’ assessing the conditions of the market in order to ‘protect the general interest’, as the Spanish government owns 60% of Bankia’s shares.
The BFA-Bankia group was bailed out in 2012 by the Spanish state, which injected €22.4 billion to save it whilst Spain was still trying to recover from the 2008 financial crisis and subsequent property crash.
The number of banks in Spain has reduced from 55 to 12 since the 2008 financial crisis, athough regulators continue to advocate consolidation as a means of lowering costs and improving efficiency.
CaixaBank is Catalan in origin, but following the 2017 independence push and ensuing political uncertainty, it moved its official headquarters outside of Catalonia days after the referendum.