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Opinion

CaixaBank-Bankia merger: How Barcelona’s bank beat Madrid’s

Putting together Spain’s two biggest domestic lenders makes sense, because, while both have good management, one side is better skilled at cross-selling.

Dominic O'Neill on Europe 1920px.jpg

A €4.3 billion all-share merger between Madrid’s Bankia and Barcelona’s CaixaBank marks a clear victory for the Catalans in the long-running battle for Spanish banking supremacy.

The merger will create an institution with a market share of Spanish loans and deposits of about 25%. It will see what is essentially an agglomeration of regional savings banks around Caja Madrid, Bankia, subsumed into its bigger and more successful Barcelona-based rival, CaixaBank.

This could finally end the last decade’s crisis in the Spanish savings banks – known cajas in Castilian, or caixas in Catalan. And if it’s a banking equivalent of El Classico – the match between football arch rivals FC Barcelona and Real Madrid – this time the Catalans have clearly come out on top.

Perhaps, another bank from Madrid – most likely BBVA – will win the consolidation game for smaller Catalan lender, Banco Sabadell, which is rumoured to be looking for a partner.

But BBVA, or indeed Santander, will only ever gain second or third place in Spain’s banking sector. CaixaBank has the country’s biggest market share of loans and the second biggest share of deposits, while Bankia has the fourth biggest share of both.


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