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Opinion

Spain’s bank rescue could make tier 2 less Popular

Both AT1 and tier-2 investors lost everything when Banco Santander rescued Banco Popular, while senior bondholders were untouched. The rescue has shown that when banks in Europe get into trouble it is liquidity, not capital, that matters and that the fate of subordinated bondholders is anything but predictable.

Popular-Santander-R-600

There is no doubt that the AT1 market took the surprise bail-in of Banco Popular’s subordinated debt and equity in its stride.

Despite its tier-1 and tier-2 debt trading at around 50c and above 70c, respectively, the day before, both became worthless when Spain’s Fondo de Reestructuración Ordenada Bancaria placed the bank into resolution on Wednesday, imposing losses of around €3.3 billion on debt and equity investors.

The market has been patting itself on the back ever since, calling the sale of Banco Popular to Banco Santander for €1 a textbook outcome. Peripheral bank AT1s barely stirred. According to CreditSights, these bonds traded down over the course of the following week, but many by less than a point. 

Overall, the AT1 market has been trading close to 12-month highs, the memory of the market disruption caused by questions over Deutsche Bank’s ability to meet coupon payments on its AT1 paper in the first quarter of last year seemingly a faint one.

Even peripheral names only fell to around 85% to 90% of those 12-month highs after Popular’s wipeout.

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