Billionaire eyes Spanish bank assets


The American financier who invested half a billion euro into Bank of Ireland has said he's interested in Spanish banking assets as the country takes steps to resolve bad loans stemming from its real-estate bubble.

Billionaire Wilbur Ross is in talks "almost every week" with representatives of the large Spanish banks, he said in an interview in Abu Dhabi, without naming potential targets.

"Maybe next year will be the year for Spain," he said. "We've been doing a lot of work in Spain. We've put a lot of time and effort into Spain but haven't put any money in yet.”

Mr Ross’s WL Ross and Co holds a 9 per cent stake in Bank of Ireland.

Officials in the euro zone's fourth-largest economy are setting up a bad bank, similar to one in Ireland, to help lenders shed soured real estate loans and to boost lending growth.

The government is seeking to purge about €180 billion of bad assets linked to property, which its central bank says remain on lenders' balance sheets.

"Spain has yet to go through the catharsis of real estate," Mr Ross said. "I don't know if it'll be another six months or another 12 months or whatever, but at some point we might very well do something in Spain."

The country's economy contracted for a fifth quarter, with gross domestic product shrinking 0.4 per cent in the three months through September from the previous quarter, the Bank of Spain said today in an estimate in its monthly bulletin.


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