The astonishing story of a thrice-failed Spanish bank:
Consider the story of Bankia.
Bankia was formed by merging seven bankrupt regional Spanish banks in 2010. The new bank was funded by Spain’s Government rescue fund… which received “preference shares” in return for over €4 billion (from taxpayers). These preference shares were shares that a) yielded 7.75% and b) would get paid before ordinary investors if Bankia failed again.
So right away, the Spanish Government was taking taxpayer money to give itself preferential treatment over ordinary investors. Indeed, those investors who owned shares in the seven banks that merged to form Bankia lost their shirts. They were wiped out and lost everything.
Bankia was then taken public in 2011. Spanish investment bankers convinced the Spanish public that the bank was a fantastic investment. Over 98% of the shares were sold to Spanish investors.
One year later, Bankia was bankrupt again, and required the single largest bailout in Spain’s history: €19 billion. Spain took over the bank and Bankia shares were frozen on the market (meaning you couldn’t sell them if you wanted to). When the bailout took place, Bankia shareholders were all but wiped out, forced to take huge losses as part of the deal. The vast majority of them were individual investors (the bank currently faces a lawsuit for over 140,000 claims of mis-selling shares).
So that’s two wipeouts in as many years.
The bank was taken public a year a second time later in May 2013. Once again Bankia shares promptly collapsed, losing 80% of their value in a matter of days. And once again, it was ordinary investors who got destroyed. Indeed, things were so awful that a police officer stabbed a Bankia banker who sold him over €300,000 worth of shares (the banker had convinced him it was a great investment).
Which brings us to today.
Bankia remains completely bankrupt. But its executives and the Spanish Government continue to claim that things are improving and that the bank is on the up and up. Indeed, just a few weeks ago, the Wall Street Journal wrote an article titled “Investors Show Interest in Bankia.” The story featured a quote from Spain’s Finance Minister that, “… it is logical. The perception of Spain has improved and Banki has improved a lot.”
Bear in mind, this is a bank that has wiped out investors THREE times in the last THREE YEARS. So that’s three different rounds of individual investors being told that Bankia was a great investment and losing everything. Every single one of these wipeouts was preceded by both bankers and Spanish Government officials claiming that “everything had been fixed” and that Bankia was a success story.
And now the Spanish Government is trying to convince them to line up for a fourth round.
Keep this in mind when you read the reassurances that this time, the green shoots really have been spotted, that the economy is growing at more than 4 percent per quarter, and stocks are cheap at their all-time highs if you only look at them in just the right way.