Kutxabank faces the new economic scenario with a replacement in the presidency and no mergers in sight

Kutxabank is entering a new stage. The approval of the Board of Directors to be Anton Arriola who takes the reins of the bank When Gregorio Villalabeitia leaves the presidency in November, it marks the beginning of a new cycle for the financial institution, in which, despite the new faces at the top, the maxim that seems to prevail is to ensure that nothing changes. In an environment of great economic uncertainty and high financial market volatility, Kutxabank weathered the storm brilliantly, demonstrating with results that the decision of its shareholders – the BBK, Vital and Kutxa foundations – not to introduce the entity in stock market and keeping control was not bad.

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Until now, Kutxabank remains something of an island in the Spanish banking sector, with the proprietary foundations retaining exclusive control. It is currently the only bank resulting from the conversion of savings banks that has not taken the plunge into the IPO. Ibercaja, which has yet to go public, has already approved the exit, although it postponed it until after the summer, waiting for market conditions to improve, now not conducive to its debut. The Basque bank has also remained on the sidelines of the merger fever that is plaguing the sector. And for now, despite the fact that rumors about possible candidates for the merger with the Basque bank appear relatively frequently, it does not seem that there are merger operations on the horizon. Of course, they are not totally excluded either and Villalabeitia himself has left more than once that they could be solved if they allow profitability to grow, but specifying that they will be very demanding during the choice of travel companions.

Proof of the zeal that the owners of Kutxabank maintain when it comes to taking control of the bank can be found in the efforts that the main shareholder, BBK, chaired by Xabier Sagredo, must make to maintain this majority in the shareholding and not allowing them to make decisions about banking agents outside of the owner foundations. The BBK, which holds 57% of the capital, is obliged to increase a guarantee fund of 235 million until 2024. This fund is the one that would allow it to respond if necessary to support failing assets. When the bank was founded, a choice had to be made between taking over the fund or reducing the stake below 50% and going public. They opted for the fund and retain control, which BBK shares with Kutxa, which holds 32%, and Vital, with 11%. Changing this strategy is not on the horizon for the main shareholder.

BBK is now waiting for the regulator to approve its intention to form a company to invest in businesses. A fund which would initially be endowed with around 200 million and which will be possible thanks to the fact that the good results of Kutxabank allow the distribution of dividends between its shareholders -the banking foundations- in a sufficient way for BBK to have the guarantee of the required funds by the Bank of Spain and to be able to count on additional funds after the contributions to the Social Work, – to which it allocates some 37 million euros per year – for business investments. This would allow BBK to diversify its source of income. Indeed, its objective is that in 2023, 50% of the resources of the Welfare Projects will be obtained outside the profits of the bank.

This new facet of BBK’s investment in the business environment may also be key to weathering the criticism the bank has faced lately for its gradual process of corporate divestment. This process of exiting strategic companies is largely taking place in accordance with the requirements of the European Central Bank, which stipulates that entities focus on strictly banking activities. However, some of these divestments have put Kutxabank’s strategies under fire from a political point of view, in discussions that have even taken the Basque Parliament, because the parties consider that Kutxabank should be an instrument to guarantee the business creation in Euskadi. This was the case, for example, of Euskaltel, in which Kutxabank sold its stake in the takeover bid proposed by Más Movil, which took control of the Basque company and which is currently in the process of merging with Orange. An operation highly criticized by all opposition parties to the Basque government, who believed that the executive should force the Basque bank to bet on the company.

If BBK succeeded in starting this investment company, it would fulfill, in a certain way, this role of investment that the bank demands, even if for the moment only the investments made by the foundation in the purchase of shares Iberdrola came at lightweight, for more than four million euros.

The new chairman of Kutxabank, whose future functions are not yet determined, but who can continue as executive chairman, although transferring more important functions to the CEO than this position currently has, will find himself, in any case , a healthy entity with the lowest default rate in the sector, 1.38% in the first quarter of the year, which also includes the default of CajaSur, the Andalusian entity that bought the ex-BBK in 2010 and that Kutxabank has managed to make profitable. This semester the group received a total of 163.2 million euros, 30% more than in 2021.

At present, the entity has a workforce of 4,989 workers and 737 branches, many of which still bear the signs of the savings banks that gave birth to the bank, despite the fact that ten years have passed since the merger and transformation into a bank. entity. They change with the opening of new offices or in-depth reforms, as if it were difficult to get rid of this essence of the boxes.

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