Business 26/03/2021

CaixaBank is now Spain's leading financial institution

The Catalan company completes the absorption of Bankia and starts the unification of the brand this weekend

Daniel Martín
3 min
José Ignacio Goirigolzarri, future Chairman of CaixaBank (on the left), with Gonzalo Gortázar, CEO of CaixaBank

ValenciaCaixaBank is already the first financial institution in Spain. This is the headline that the Catalan company can boast of, since on Friday they have closed the absorption of Bankia with the registration of the operation in the commercial register of Valencia, after Tuesday the National Competition Market Commission (CNMC) authorized the integration. The result is a bank with 20 million customers, 25% of the Spanish market, 50,000 employees, 640,000 million in assets, a commercial network with a physical presence in 2,200 municipalities, and three headquarters: a social one in Valencia, and two operational ones in Barcelona and Madrid.

Those in charge of explaining the good news were the company's CEO, Gonzalo Gortázar, who described the day as "historic"; and the future president of the entity, José Ignacio Goirigolzarri, who will be appointed during Tuesday's meeting. Both have justified the merger by the need to compete in an increasingly complex financial market and regain "profitability".

The first step of the absorption will be the unification of the brand, which will begin this weekend. It will begin "with the most significant corporate buildings" of Bankia, which will now have a CaixaBank logo. This process is expected to be completed next week. As for the branches, the new signage will begin to be introduced within 7 to 15 days. "We hope that in June or July it will be finished," said Goirigolzarri.

The reduction of the workforce, however, will be much more complex than the image change. On this point, Gortázar has only advanced that the future employment regulation file will begin to be negotiated with the unions after Easter with the aim of closing it during the second quarter of this year. It will be carried out prioritizing voluntariness "and meritocracy" to retain "the best", as emphasized the CEO. Finally, the technological integration will be carried out, which is expected to be achieved by the end of the year. From then on, the company will begin to merge the financial products of the two banks and offer unified services.

Good reception from the stock market

Gortázar and Goirigolzarri have highlighted the good reception that the operation has had since the ARA announced it on September 3 last year. They highlighted the "expansive" behaviour the share price has had since then. The growth has been confirmed this Friday with a rise of 3%. Specifically, shortly after the opening of the session, and on its last day of independent trading, Bankia shares have been the most bullish of all the Ibex-35, with an increase of 3.11% to 1.79 euros per share. For their part, CaixaBank shares, the third highest gainers, rose 2.91% to 2.62 euros. To complete the operation, the new shares issued by CaixaBank will start trading on Monday. The Catalan company will issue 2,079 million ordinary shares, in compliance with the agreement on the merger exchange ratio, set at 0.6845 new CaixaBank shares for each Bankia share.

FROB exit

On the future exit of the Fund for Orderly Bank Restructuring from CaixaBank's shareholding, given that the Spanish state owns 16% of the shares, Goirigolzarri recalled that the decision depends on the Ministry of Economy. The future president of CaixaBank recalled that the Spanish government recently extended from 2021 to 2023 the deadline to sell its stake and thus recover the 22,000 million it spent to rescue Bankia. In this regard, Goirigolzarri stressed that since the announcement of the integration, the shares of the State (which had just over 60% of Bankia) "have been revalued by 1,600 million euros". Finally, the banker from Bilbao has also said that he does not consider the absorption of Bankia to have been "a failure", and has congratulated himself for having gone from being "the big problem of the Spanish economy" in 2012 to making "a contribution in a delicate stage such as the covid".

Before closing the press conference, the person in charge of outlining the future of CaixaBank was Gonzalo Gortázar, who said that for the next two or three years the bank will focus on the Spanish market and on completing the integration with Bankia, but that once these milestones have been reached, and if the conditions of European operations are similar to the "internal" ones -a circumstance that currently "does not occur"-, the company does not rule out purchases or mergers in the Old Continent following the path initiated in 2018 with the acquisition of the Portuguese BPI, of which CaixaBank owns 100% of the capital.