Insurance company VidaCaixa’s net profit drops by 46% to settle at €420 million

February 14, 2014 07:26 PM | ACN

In 2013, the consolidated net profit of VidaCaixa, the insurance branch of Spain’s largest bank CaixaBank, amounted to €420.1 million. The figure represents a 46.2% decrease on the previous year, when it had reached €789.5 million. This decrease is due to the effects of the reinsurance transaction on the company’s ‘vida-risc’ life insurance, which occurred in the last quarter of 2012, bringing in an extra income of €600 million back then. On the other hand, the net recurring profit for 2013 totalled €328.3 million, 3.1% less than the previous year. VidaCaixa has reached 3.6 million customers and exceeded €50 billion of assets under management, both figures amounting to a 14.1% increase on the previous year.

Barcelona Chamber of Commerce President: Catalonia’s economy works better than Spain’s

February 13, 2014 08:01 PM | ACN

The President of Barcelona Chamber of Commerce, Miquel Valls, stated on Thursday that the independence process was not affecting Catalonia’s economic recovery. During a press conference, Valls emphasised that such a statement was based on concrete “facts”. He stressed that Catalonia had tripled the amount of incoming foreign investment compared to the Spanish average, and that the Catalan economy had also registered better figures in enterprise creation and business confidence, employment and other indicators showing an economic recovery According to the report on conjecture and economic perspectives, the Catalan GDP grew by 0.7% during the fourth quarter of 2013, whereas the Spanish GDP dropped by 0.1%. Valls also recalled that the consultation vote on the political future of Catalonia would involve “citizens and not businesses”, thus responding to the employers who recently voiced their opposition to Catalonia’s independence.

Catalonia approves 3 green taxes expected to raise €50 million per year

February 11, 2014 07:41 PM | ACN

The Catalan Government has approved 3 new environmental taxes on the air pollution emissions of commercial flights, industrial gas and particle emission, and the nuclear production of electric energy. €50 million are expected to be raised per year once the law will be enforced, which is scheduled for mid-year. The Spokesperson for the Catalan Government, Francesc Homs, has admitted that flights at Barcelona’s El Prat Airport would likely be affected. However, he ensured that none of these 3 new taxes would have a negative impact on the consumers. The law specifies that the tax cannot affect pricing, neither for plane tickets nor for electricity, pointed out Homs. He then put in contrast the €98 million fees an airline can have to pay to the Spanish Airport Authority (AENA) with the €1 million in taxes that may be levied by the Catalan Government.

Catalan parties welcome Rajoy’s rectification in publishing fiscal balances after all

February 5, 2014 09:48 PM | ACN

After a great controversy and outraged reaction from businesspeople, politicians and academics, the Spanish Government has amended its previous decision and on Tuesday evening it announced that it will publish the so-called fiscal balances. This financial instrument shows how much money the citizens and companies from a territory give to the central government and how much of this money comes back in form of funds, investments and services. Previous studies showed that Catalonia has been giving away an average of 8% of its GDP each year since 1986, which represents 6 times the entire Marshall Plan in comparable currencies. The Spanish Government was supposed to publish the fiscal balances in December but a month later it announced it would not do so since they were “used to foster Catalonia’s independence” claims. Catalan parties warned Rajoy not to alter the figures and calculation to produce the result he wishes.


Qatar fund buys Barcelona’s Renaissance Hotel for €78.5 million

February 3, 2014 07:54 PM | ACN

An investment fund from Qatar has bought the Hotel Renaissance, located in the Eixample neighbourhood of the Catalan capital. Inici del formulariAccording to La Vanguardianewspaper, the transaction was closed at the price of €78.5 million. The Marriott Group will continue running the establishment as the agreement provides for a long-term management, but the Qatari buyer will participate in the most strategic decisions. The hotel passed from having four-stars when it belonged to AC Hotels, to five stars, after being purchased by the Marriott Group. Its workforce expanded considerably to reach a hundred employees after its re-opening in March 2012. The hotel features 211 rooms and had an average occupancy of 67 % during its first opening year.

€503 million profits for CaixaBank in 2013, ending a 4-year-long downward trend

January 31, 2014 07:29 PM | ACN

Barcelona-based CaixaBank, Spain’s largest bank, has earned €503 million in 2013, representing a 118 % increase on 2012. The private bank mostly owned by La Caixa has left behind a 4-year-long downward trend in profits which can be traced back to December 2009, towards the start of the economic crisis. This result was successfully reached by trying to maintain a similar provision volume than in 2012, which resulted in consuming €7.5 billion, meaning 4.81 % less than what was spent last year. The integration of Banca Cívica and Banc de València have contributed to a growth of the market share to 27.4 %. The bank’s core capital, which is the main solvency indicator, stood at 12.9% according to Basel II regulations and at 11.7% according to Basel III regulations.

Underground economy represents 24.6% of Catalonia's GDP

January 29, 2014 08:22 PM | ACN

The economic crisis and especially the recession starting in 2009 have contributed to the growing weight of the underground economy in Catalonia and in Spain, according to a study presented on Wednesday by the Spanish Ministry of Finance’s Union of Technicians (Gestha). This study is entitled ‘L’economia submergida passa factura. Avançament del frau a Espanya durant la crisi’ (Underground economy takes its toll. Growing fraud in Spain during the crisis) and is led by Jordi Sardà, a professor at Tarragona’s Universitat Rovira i Virgili (URV). It reveals that according to the latest figures (from 2012) the underground economy has absorbed 24.6% of Catalonia’s GDP, hiding €47.36 billion. In 2009 the weight of illegal activity amounted to 22.3 %, meaning that between 2009 and 2012 some €4.6 billion were hidden.

Catalan businesspeople annoyed with Spanish Government for not issuing fiscal balances

January 28, 2014 01:43 PM | ACN / Gaspar Pericay Coll

The Catalan business community is deeply annoyed with the Spanish Government for not publishing transparent data on Catalonia’s fiscal contribution to the rest of Spain and therefore not recognising the fiscal deficit. The Spanish Finance Minister, Cristóbal Montoro, was supposed to issue the so-called fiscal balances last December but their publication was inexplicably delayed. Last Friday, in late January, Montoro announced the fiscal balances would no longer be calculated and published in the present form; instead, he would publish in March the “regionalised public figures” stating the costs of public services per citizen because the fiscal balances were “incomplete and incoherent”. However, on Tuesday, the Minister recognised that they were “correct” but “wrongly used” to support Catalan independence claims.

Catalan Finance Minister accuses Rajoy of sidelining and homogenising the Autonomous Communities

January 24, 2014 02:57 PM | ACN

Andreu Mas-Colell, Catalan Finance Minister, accused the Spanish Government of aiming “to undo” the system of Autonomous Communities. He also expressed his fear that the so-called ‘coffee for all’ system [the generalised devolution of the early 1980s that shaped the 17 Autonomous Communities] will become a ‘decaffeinated coffee’ system, implemented ‘in depth’. With this play on words, Mas-Colell was referring to a deep recentralisation and homogenisation process. Furthermore, the former professor of Economics at Harvard and Berkley, denounced “the budget treatment” that the Spanish Government gives to Catalonia as “totally unfair”. In this vein, he proposed that an international and independent body should calculate the fiscal balances between Catalonia and the Spanish State.

The Catalan Government’s budget for 2014 is finally approved

January 22, 2014 09:36 PM | ACN

All the opposition parties except the Left-Wing Catalan Independence Party (ERC), which shares a parliamentary stability agreement with the governing Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition (CiU), have criticised the Catalan Government’s budget for 2014 – which amounts to €29.31 billion – for being “anti-social”. The Catalan Socialist Party (PSC), the People’s Party (PP) – which runs the Spanish Government, the Catalan Green Socialist and Communist Coalition (ICV-EUiA), the anti-Catalan nationalism party Ciutadans (C’s) and the radical left-wing and independence party CUP all opposed the budget proposal. The CiU and ERC defended the bill and have accused the other parties of “not presenting real alternatives”. The budget’s approval was delayed by a month after the PP appealed against the bill because it includes €5 million for a consultation vote.

Catalonia’s independence would have “a major adverse impact on Spain’s economy” warns Moody’s

January 16, 2014 07:47 PM | ACN

Rating agency Moody’s warns that Catalan independence from Spain might have “a major adverse impact on Spain’s economy” but also that “Catalonia itself could also suffer” if the break–up is not friendly. In a forecast about the Spanish economy published this week, the New York-based company analyses potential risks that might damage the expected economic recovery. Moody’s praise the high level of exports, based on a higher competitiveness reached by lowering salaries. However, the report, signed by Zach Witton, highlights that “debt reduction by households and businesses, elevated unemployment, the housing market correction, and tight credit will drag on growth”.

Catalan Government stops cutting off energy supplies to families in need

December 23, 2013 08:16 PM | ACN

The Catalan Government has finally approved a decree protecting families in need from having their household electricity and gas cut off by energy supply companies during the winter months. The measure aims to fight the so-called ‘energy povert’: people who cannot afford to pay for their energy bills because they do not get minimum income. This way, the Catalan Government ensures they can continue having heating and using their cooking devices during the coldest period of the year. Energy companies will not be able to cut off supplies to these families between November and March. Besides, the Catalan Government has also approved a temporary budget extension for the coming weeks, since the People’s  Party (PP) – which runs the Spanish Executive – has blocked the approval of the 2014 budget.

Experts suggest increasing cooperation between an independent Catalonia and Spain

December 20, 2013 09:21 PM | ACN

The Catalan Government’s Advisory Council for the National Transition (CATN), formed of renowned independent experts, emphasised that Catalonia’s independence from Spain would not represent breaking their affective and historical bounds. Furthermore, they insisted on the need to continue and even to increase cooperation “based on a new principle of equality and mutual respect between both parties”. They have suggested different ways to cooperate, through different structures. For instance, they proposed the creation of the ‘Iberian Council’ bringing together Catalonia and Spain, as well as Portugal and Andorra if they wished to, which would mirror the Nordic Council or the Benelux. Furthermore, the CATN issued three other reports, including a detailed analysis of Catalonia’s tax agency.

Italian and German investment funds buy two Catalan Government buildings

December 20, 2013 08:42 PM | ACN

The Catalan Government put 4 buildings up for auction this Friday, following a plan to rationalise the spaces it uses, reduce spending and increase revenue in order to reduce public deficit. The headquarters of the Catalan Finance Ministry, located in a 8,000 square metre Art-Nouveau building in Barcelona’s Rambla Catalunya, has been bought by an Italian pharmaceutical company through FINAF 92 for €23.2 million. The other building, with a surface of 7,200 square metres, was used by the Catalan Police and is located in front of Barcelona’s Ciutadella Park. It has been bought by the German hotel company MO Düsseldorf Immermannstrasse GmbH & CO. KG for €14.1 million. On Thursday, the Catalan Government announced a plan to reduce its office space by 45% in the coming year by concentrating services. The plan includes selling the most attractive buildings.

Catalan Government plans to reduce its office space by 45%

December 19, 2013 08:22 PM | ACN

The Catalan Finance Minister presented on Thursday a ‘Space Rationalisation and Optimisation Plan’ that foresees to partially leave Barcelona’s city centre and set up offices in cheaper areas. Nonetheless, the measure does not include citizen information and care centres such as schools and community health centres. Furthermore, the initiative also plans to reduce the global office space by using previously-empty floors and concentrating services without laying off staff. The objective is to pass from holding 377,000 square metres to fully occupying 207,000 square metres, a 45% reduction. By doing so, the Catalan Government expects to reduce rents by a 20% average, to cut off indirect costs by 50% and to decrease energy spending by 30%. Furthermore, it will sell the most appealing buildings.