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Spain's Sabadell eyes more UK deals after TSB takeover

Source: Reuters - Sat 21st Mar 2015
Spain's Sabadell eyes more UK deals after TSB takeover

Spain's Banco Sabadell could look to expand further in Britain after agreeing a £1.7 billion takeover of TSB, one of the biggest cross-border banking deals since the financial crisis of 2007-09.

Sabadell, Spain's 5th-biggest bank, said it planned to grow TSB into a significant challenger to Britain's "Big Four" lenders - Barclays, HSBC, Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds, from which TSB was spun off last year.

Sabadell's bigger domestic rival Santander is already the main challenger to those four after buying Abbey National a decade ago. Subdued markets at home are pushing mid-sized Spanish banks into foreign acquisitions.

Chairman Josep Oliu said Sabadell was attracted to Britain by the strength of the national economy and healthy margins.

"The financial sector in the UK has margins that are acceptable, similar to the ones that we have in Spain and higher than the ones we have in other European countries," he said.

Sabadell said TSB would be better able to grow under its ownership and the enlarged business could target more deals.

Oliu told reporters in London that Sabadell would take a "step-by-step" approach to growing its British business.

Speaking to reporters in Barcelona, Sabadell Chief Executive Jaime Guardiola said: "The UK challenger market is unconsolidated. Clearly, we'll build our first platform, but it's clear that there is room for consolidation. We are in a position to grow."

The group will have a number of opportunities if it decides to accelerate growth through more acquisitions.

Clydesdale Bank has been put up for sale by its owner National Australia Bank. New bank OneSavings said this week it would listen to takeover offers while the government is selling $13 billion of home loans held by bailed out Northern Rock and Bradford & Bingley. Sabadell is having to raise EU1.6 billon to finance the TSB deal and the need for further funding could hold it back.

"OUT OF THE BLUE"

Oliu revealed that Sabadell had begun to look "seriously" at the possibility of a bid for TSB in January and approached TSB Chairman Will Samuel about a possible offer on Feb.27.

TSB CEO Paul Pester said the approach came out of the blue.

"It was a Friday morning and I was in our normal weekly management meeting, which ended promptly. My PA came to the door and said 'Will needs to speak to you quickly'. Of course it was a surprise," Pester told reporters.

Sabadell is offering 340 pence per TSB share, a 29% premium to their price the day before its approach was announced and compared with the 260p at which Lloyds sold a first tranche of shares in June last year. The proposed takeover was formally announced on March 12.

TSB shares were up 2.1% at 334p by 1610 GMT and Sabadell was up 4.8%.

Lloyds, ordered to sell TSB by European regulators as a condition of its £20 billion bailout during the crisis, said on Friday it had agreed to sell a 9.99% stake to Sabadell and entered into an irrevocable undertaking to sell its remaining 40.01%.

Cross-border takeovers have been rare in the banking sector since the crisis, with bigger banks focusing on slimming down to bolster their capital and meet tougher regulations.

Sabadell is funding the deal via an EU1.6 Bln capital increase, issuing new shares at EU1.48 per share in a proportion of 3 new shares for each 11 old ones.

It said the deal is part of its strategy to become more international and would mean 22% of its assets are outside Spain, up from 5% at the end of 2014.

TSB's Pester and Finance Director Darren Pope will continue in their current roles, the banks said.

Sabadell said it will also provide a strong technology platform for TSB to use, which could provide cost savings of about £160 Mln annually 3 years after the takeover.

Lloyds, which is providing TSB's technology platform under a 10 year deal, will pay £450 Mln to support the migration of the IT platform to Sabadell.

TSB is currently Britain's 7th biggest lender with 631 branches and a 4.3% market share.

Sabadell, founded in 1881 in north-eastern Spain to serve local industry, has doubled its size over the past 5 years and now has 2,220 branches in Spain, serving around 6,500.

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