UK/SPAIN - Two banks involved in the acquisition of ABN Amro are selling off most of their remaining property assets in a series of sale-and-leaseback deals.
Santander, Spain's largest bank, is selling its entire €4bn property portfolio, including branches and offices across the market but excluding its northern headquarters "for emotional reasons", according to spokeswoman Angela Roche Riesco.
The firm did not deny recent Spanish press speculation suggesting an investment vehicle led by Amancio Ortega, chief executive of retailer Inditex, would acquire more than 40 properties nationwide.
Roche Riesco said the sale-and-leaseback structure would release capital to grow the core business but the bank will remain as a tenant in the 1,500 branches up for sale.
"Lots of banks have been doing it in the past few years. The ABN Amro deal [RBS led the consortium acquiring the Dutch bank] accelerated it, but we would have done it anyway," said Roche Riesco.
Real estate held by the firm's retail bank subsidiary, Banesto, will not be included in the portfolio. "We might do it eventually - but not with this deal," she said.
Meanwhile, in the UK, RBS, which led the winning consortium to take over ABN Amro, is poised to sell its remaining portfolio in its third tranche in as many years. The portfolio has an estimated value of £800m (€1,146m).
The bank declined to comment on likely buyers but said in a statement: "RBS constantly reviews its space requirements to ensure that our property assets remain relevant to the needs of our business. These new tranches are part of this ongoing programme."