Unemployment increases by 14,644 in Catalonia in October
Spain sees 3.18% increase but totals still down on last year
Spain sees 3.18% increase but totals still down on last year
Judges reverse earlier decision favoring clients following negative impact on markets and prospects of big reimbursements costs
The number of Catalans with Spanish nationality living abroad and registered with consulates rose by 9.31% between 1 January 2014 and 1 January 2015, according to data from the Spanish Statistics Institute (INE), which is a legally independent institution run by the Spanish Government. In early 2014, there were 221,444 Catalans living in a foreign country, while a year later this figure had risen to 242,070, thus registering a 20,626 person increase. Regarding Spain as a whole, on the 1 January 2015, there were 2,183,043 citizens living abroad and registered with consulates. This represents a 6.1% growth on the figures from January 2014, when there were 124,995 less Spaniards living abroad.
Barcelona’s office rental sector is improving after years of decline. Real estate company Inmobiliaria Colonial has set the tone by releasing 23 million new shares. Colonial is one of Europe’s leading companies in the office rental market and besides the new shares, they have also bought the main office of food multinational company Gallina Blanca. The property, positioned on L’Hopitalet del Llobregat’s Plaça Europa, one of Greater Barcelona’s business districts, has an area of almost 5,000 square metres and has been sold for €10.4 million. The shares and the purchase both belong to a new strategy to recover from the crisis and get the market back on track.
The former European Commission’s Spokesperson for Economic Affairs during the Eurozone crisis, Amadeu Altafaj, is to become Catalonia’s Permanent Representative to the EU institutions. This position has been created as a way to increase the political weight of the already existing Catalan Government Delegation in Brussels in the middle of the debate about independence from Spain. Altafaj, who has also worked as Deputy Chief of Cabinet of the Commission’s Vice President for Economic and Monetary Affairs, Olli Rehn, since 2012, will now direct this delegation and become Catalonia’s voice in the EU institutions’ offices. On many occasions, Altafaj has been vocal about Catalonia’s self-determination, supporting it and emphasising that an independent Catalan State would be economically viable.
The Catalan banking system boasts a strong image after the publication on Sunday of the 2014 EU-wide stress test results, issued by the European Banking Authority (EBA). All the financial entities based in Catalonia have sailed through the EBA stress test, showing they could face the most adverse economic developments with only their own resources. In the most difficult scenario, Barcelona-based CaixaBank – which is the largest bank in the Spanish market – reached a 9.3% equity ratio (CET1), Banc Sabadell got an 8.3% and Catalunya Banc an 8%. The minimum required was 5.5%, which was not reached by 24 of the 123 European banks analysed. Only one Spanish entity, Madrid-based Liberbank, would need additional capital in the worst case scenario.
BBVA will pay €1.187 billion to the Fund for Orderly Bank Restructuring (FROB) for the nationalised Catalan bank, beating the other two offers in the final phase of the auction process presented by Santander and Barcelona-based CaixaBank. This means that Spanish taxpayers will lose €11.84 billion considering guarantees and due to the fact that the Spanish Government injected €12.622 billion into Catalunya Banc since it was nationalised in 2011. Catalunya Banc was a private bank owned by CatalunyaCaixa, the merger of three historical Catalan savings banks (Catalunya, Tarragona and Manresa). It could not face the deep restructuring process required to meet the new banking regulations. The bank had a weak financial position resulting from a high exposition to toxic real estate and mortgages assets, as well as suffering from poor management. The BBVA will become the second largest bank operating in Catalonia, doubling its past position.
CatalunyaCaixa (CX) on Thursday confirmed the sale of its portfolio of high risk loans to US investment company Blackstone, consisting mainly of mortgages with a nominal value of €6.392 billion and provisions of €2.205 billion. The transaction involved the transfer of funds to a portfolio of asset-backed securities for an amount equal to its book value, €4.187 billion, with €3.615 billion supplied by Blackstone and Spain's public Fund for Orderly Bank Restructuring (FROB) providing the remaining 572 million. With this divestment, the CX solvency ratio stood at 14.9% and coverage stands at 81.6%. After this sale, the liquid assets of CX will reach €16.848 billion and the company is now ready to face its full privatisation, after it was nationalised in 2012. In addition, Blackstone had already bought CX's real estate business in June in a €40 million operation.
The Catalan Government approved on Tuesday a measure to impose a tax on empty flats owned by financial institutions. The aim of the tax is to incentivise banks to rent out the empty homes. Santi Vila, the Catalan Minister for Planning and Sustainability, said that the "mere announcement" of the tax has already caused Sareb [Spain's public 'bad bank'], Catalunya Caixa and Bankia to yield to the Government 1,230 apartments for social rent. During the press conference after the weekly Cabinet meeting, Vila pointed out that the new tax will not apply to individuals and will only be intended for flats that have been taken out of the market for more than two years. The Minister also said that the measure is not simply about "tax collection" but is instead to ease the access to housing market in the midst of a housing crisis.
''The recovery has come and has come to stay,'' according to Salvador Guillermo, Director of the Economy of Catalonia's main association of business-owners, Foment del Treball. Guillermo, who coordinated the report published on Tuesday, said that the analysis of economic data confirms that the positive trends have been occurring a month earlier in Catalonia than in the rest of Spain, "which means that recovery is more entrenched'' in Catalonia. The agents of this recovery are internal demand (consumption and investment) and the fast pace of exports in Catalonia.
Throughout this week the Fira de Barcelona's Montjuic exhibition venue in the Catalan capital is transformed into a business fair for start-ups and entrepreneurs. The BizBarcelona event takes place on Wednesday the 4th and Thursday the 5th of June and is the second edition of this innovative business fair. The event serves several purposes and contains as many as six different areas including e-commerce, the financial markets, exports, franchises, business consulting as well as cooperation and networking. The event offers various opportunities for established and future entrepreneurs. BizBarcelona is a welcome initiative. First quarter financial reports revealed a decrease in bankruptcy proceedings, and with a high unemployment rate in Catalonia and Spain it is hoped that these new companies can create jobs.
The Barcelona-based bank, which was totally nationalised in December 2012 and received a €9.08 billion bailout, has made profits of €532.2 million in 2013, which would represent €167.8 million without the extraordinary profits. In 2012, CatalunyaCaixa posted losses of €11.86 billion. In 2013, the operational costs were reduced by 13.1%, having drastically reduced the number of employees and branches. The bank's capital ratio is now 14.36% and the main capital following Basel III criteria reached 12.3%, which represents liquidity of €15.01 billion. With these figures, the Spanish Government is in a better position to sell CatalunyaCaixa, which forecasts profits also for 2014. This company was the result of merging the banking business of 3 savings banks in 2011: Caixa Catalunya, Caixa Tarragona and Caixa Manresa, which disappeared after a long tradition of social work. The operation was part of Spain's restructuring of the banking sector.
On Wednesday evening the main Catalan small- and medium-sized enterprises association, Pimec, organised a protest conference in which they accused the Spanish and Catalan Governments of politically and financially "discriminating" against them. With the slogan #diguemprou (#wesayenough) 1,400 owners of SMEs and self-employed workers protested against both Governments for not taking SMEs into account and only working for the interests of large corporations. The protest was explicitly backed by 220 guilds and associations, as well as by 9 professional associations and that of self-employed workers. The event issued a manifesto compiling a list of grievances, split into 7 different areas: entrepreneurship; loans and funding; taxation; labour market; energy; training and employment; and internationalisation.