BBVA/Banco Sabadell: the benefit of hindsight
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BBVA/Banco Sabadell: the benefit of hindsight

BBVA could have bought Banco Sabadell much more cheaply in 2020. Sabadell’s CEO César González-Bueno has since turned his bank around. But BBVA’s return to the negotiating table comes at a time when European banking may be moving to a new and more confident phase.

BBVA chair Carlos Torres Vila | Photo: Reuters

There is a longstanding criticism of BBVA among impatient investment bankers. Yes, today BBVA is more profitable, better capitalized and, until now, better valued than its largest Madrid-based rival, Banco Santander. But culturally it is not daring enough, they say. It pays too much attention to price. It misses out on M&A opportunities.

This, according to such critics, is why BBVA’s balance sheet and market cap is still much smaller than Santander, even though Santander was the smaller bank until its 1994 acquisition of Banesto.

Some of this may relate to history and individuals, above all to the many years when Emilio Botín ran Santander while the less deal-hungry Francisco Gonzáles, a former IT programmer, ran BBVA. Similar views are expressed when observers talk about BBVA chair Carlos Torres Vila’s decision to leave late-2020 negotiations for a merger with Banco Sabadell – only to take another look now, four years later, when Sabadell appears much safer but is much more expensive.

Four years ago, BBVA had just sold its US business for almost €10 billion – but not bidding too much for Sabadell was understandable to some.



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EMEA editor
Dominic O’Neill is EMEA editor. He joined Euromoney in 2007 to cover emerging markets, focusing on central and eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa, and later on Latin America. Based in London, he has covered developed market banking since 2015.
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