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Strategic Merger in Motion: BBVA Eyes Banco de Sabadell with ECB's Support


Lauren Miller

May 17, 2024 - 11:58 am


ECB Shows Support for BBVA's Advance on Banco de Sabadell

In a notable development, the European Central Bank (ECB) is signaling its support for a possible merger between Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria SA (BBVA) and Banco de Sabadell SA, indicating that regulatory approvals may be streamlined should the deal come to fruition.

A Strategic Union in the Spanish Banking Sector

The ECB, functioning as the premier banking regulator in the euro area, perceives Sabadell's robust lending presence within Spain as an effective complement to BBVA’s expansive efforts in emerging markets like Mexico and Turkey. Officials, who preferred to remain anonymous while sharing insights on private deliberations, highlighted the potential for Sabadell to broaden its exposure to small and medium-sized businesses through the attainment of a larger consolidated balance sheet.

The regulatory body has underscored its preference for an amicable transaction, but maintains that even in the wake of a non-friendly approach, the merger's architectural merits remain substantial. It is of note that while the ECB is keen on the deal for its strategic balance, it remains neutral and is not actively campaigning for or against the merger.

BBVA stands to gain considerably from the ECB’s backing as it would likely facilitate a smoother and quicker approval process, dependent on the acquiescence of shareholders. This support could also pave the way for less contentious discussions between the bank and regulatory bodies concerning the future capital requisites for the merged entity.

Neither the ECB nor the representatives from BBVA and Sabadell have offered public comments on these developments.

BBVA's Bold Overture for Settlement

Straying from traditional Spanish banking practices of recent decades, BBVA's Chairman, Carlos Torres, initiated an unprecedented move by bypassing Sabadell's board and extending a direct takeover proposition to the company's shareholders. The offer quantifies Sabadell at an 18% premium relative to its share price prior to the proposal, putting Torres in a delicate position, as Sabadell's management has since dismissed the bid.

BBVA is finding its offer met with resistance not only from Sabadell’s leadership but the Spanish government as well. Economy Minister Carlos Cuerpo has declared that the government will have the ultimate say in any decision on the merger.

For further information, please visit Bloomberg.

Nevertheless, Chairman Torres has indicated optimism that the government might moderate its stance following regional elections held the previous weekend in Spain.

During a recent investor call, Torres referenced an initial response from the ECB that he described as tending towards the positive. This feedback presumably occurred before BBVA disclosed its hostile takeover offer.

The ECB's Role in the Acquisition

It falls to the ECB's Chief Economics Officer, Luis de Guindos, to authorize banking acquisitions such as BBVA's potential takeover of Sabadell. The ECB's review process is meticulously grounded on sound solvency and prudential considerations.

BBVA’s Geographic and Financial Footprint

As of current operations, BBVA generates most of its profitability from Mexico, achieving double the returns in the initial quarter compared to its Spanish activities. Approximately half of BBVA’s extensive €800 billion ($867 billion) balance sheet is invested outside its domestic Spanish market, with significant proportions in Mexico and Turkey jointly comprising roughly one-third of the total.

Mexico, Turkey, and various South American nations, where BBVA operates, are areas known for steep inflation, substantial political uncertainty, and currency fluctuation. The capital secured by BBVA in its international subsidiaries also falls outside the ECB's direct supervisory purview.

By stark contrast, Sabadell has approximately three-quarters of its €236 billion asset base anchored in Spain, notwithstanding a substantial allocation within its UK division, TSB.

Championing the Cause of Medium and Small Businesses

Sabadell's Chief Executive Officer, Cesar Gonzalez-Bueno, has previously extolled the virtues of the bank's commitment to supporting small and medium-sized companies, referring to this focus as Sabadell's signal strength and primary expertise at a recent conference.

The news of the ECB's position, as found in the narrative relayed by Bloomberg, was supplemented with contributions from Laura Noonan and Macarena Muñoz.

The entire article can be explored in its original form, marking the comprehensive discussion of these revelations at Bloomberg L.P..


In the evolving landscape of global and regional banking, the potential merger of BBVA and Banco de Sabadell presents a juxtaposition of strategic market penetrations and fiscal consolidations. With the ECB's endorsement aligning strategically behind the potential merger, despite political and management-level reluctance, the scenario unfolds as a substantial shift within the Spanish banking industry.

The pursuit remains ambitious and fraught with complexity due to the dynamic nature of international finance and the nuanced regulatory tapestry that governs such substantial undertakings. Yet, this narrative serves as an essential barometer of the current financial climate in one of Europe's crucial banking markets.

It is clear that in times of economic uncertainty accentuated by fluctuating markets and high stakes, even the steadfast pillars of the financial world such as the ECB are not impervious to the undercurrents shaping the future of banking. For industry observers and stakeholders alike, the BBVA-Sabadell saga heralds a critical juncture, not just for the companies involved but also for the broader spectrum of European banking operations.

To follow the ever-unfolding story of BBVA's advances towards a union with Banco de Sabadell, and to delve deeper into the complexities of this international financial storyline, readers are encouraged to keep abreast of updates as they happen. The potential for innovation, growth, and strategic repositioning in the wake of this merger is bound to set precedents in the banking industry, signaling potential for a new era in financial collaborations and market strategies.

With a much-needed nod of approval from the ECB, the road ahead for BBVA's ambitious venture seems less fraught. Whether the merger will manifest as a beacon of transformation in the sector or give way under the scrutiny of those at the helm of fiscal decision-making remains to be seen. As of the moment, the financial world waits with bated breath as a potential new chapter in banking consolidation takes shape.

Overall, the prospective BBVA-Sabadell merger encapsulates the intricate dance between national interest and international ambitions within the banking industry. It spotlights the nuanced role of regulators such as the ECB who wield significant influence over the outcome but adopt a measured approach in pursuing the broader objectives of stability, solvency, and prudent financial management.

As the narrative continues to unravel, the market will keep a close watch on the interactive play of these financial titans, their strategic imperatives, and the response of a sector to the reshaping of its foundational landscape.

The symbiotic relationship between regional focus and international agility may very well be the defining feature of the next wave of banking industry innovation, ushering in an age of diversified portfolios and fortified market resilience.

In the shadow of such significant financial maneuvering lies the ever-present scrutiny of the public, shareholders, and international observers, whose combined interests and reactions will collectively determine the ultimate fate of this possible consolidation. The path ahead for BBVA and Banco de Sabadell, under the watchful eyes of the ECB, will serve as a testament to the forces of collaboration versus competition within the dynamic and ever-evolving world of finance.

As the saga unfolds, one thing is clear: the stakes are high, and the outcome will undeniably ripple through the corridors of global banking, potentially redefining the Spanish banking landscape and setting a precedent for future endeavors in the sector.

With this proposed merger, the Spanish banking scene might witness not just a transformation of its own but could potentially signal a shift in how European banks conceptualize growth amidst economic challenges and market volatility. The BBVA-Sabadell narrative, with the ECB in a pivotal role, exemplifies the delicate interplay of national priorities and international expansiveness, encapsulating the complexities of modern-day finance at both the micro and macro levels.

Only time will tell whether the potential union between BBVA and Banco de Sabadell will forge a new path or become a cautionary tale in the annals of finance. But one thing is certain: the world is watching as this chess game of banking behemoths unfolds, with the ECB's subtle yet influential position poised to tip the scales of financial destiny.

In conclusion, the unfolding story of BBVA’s pursuit of Banco de Sabadell, with the European Central Bank playing a pivotal albeit discreet role, serves as a gripping chapter in the multinational narrative of banking mergers and acquisitions. As the banking sector at large contemplates the repercussions and potential transformations hinging on this deal, the undercurrents within the financial community will inevitably surface, revealing the intricate tapestry of power, policy, and pragmatism that underpins the world of high finance.