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Spanish report Spanish report
by Euro Reporter
2011-03-24 09:17:00
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RBS jettisons Spanish assets and loans at a loss

Taxpayer-controlled Royal Bank of Scotland sold off a large chunk of its most risky Spanish property loans and assets at a significant loss. The bank said the loans and properties, which are being bought by private-equity fund Perella Weinberg Real Estate Fund, had a book value of €286 million (£249 million). But it refused to disclose the sale price, or the amount by which these assets had already been written down on its balance sheet.

Today's sale is part of some €1 billion of Spanish assets that RBS has earmarked for a rapid sale. They include shopping centres and loans that have seriously under-performed since the Spanish economy went into reverse. A number of private-equity bidders have indicated interest in the rest of the portfolio, which is seen to be less risky than today's sale. The bank is also looking at a similar disposal of its UK property portfolio, which is on its books with a value of some £3 billion.


Spanish unions, business leaders extend deadline for talks

Spanish unions and business leaders said Wednesday they need more time to reach agreement on reforming the country's collective wage-bargaining system. The government had hoped to have an agreement before the European summit taking place Thursday and Friday in Brussels, but unions and business leaders now say they expect the talks to go on until mid-April.

"Both the government and the unions believe an agreement is much more useful and efficient than a unilateral decision made by the government. We have both tacitly agreed that there is still space for further negotiations," said Ignacio Fernandez Toxo, leader of the Comisiones Obreras, one of the largest labour unions in the country. He spoke after a meeting with Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. The reform is seen as key to government efforts to cut labour costs and increase employment. In Spain, collective wage bargaining agreements tend to link wages to inflation and make it difficult for individual companies to tailor agreements to their own needs. The system leads to high labour costs that undermine competitiveness.

"The government has no problem in postponing (the agreement) because it's worth having a labour reform everyone is happy with," said Labour Minister Valeriano Gomez. However, Gomez said negotiations shouldn't continue for too long since the government's reform drive "is not over." After signing this agreement, the government intends to launch new economic measures, he said.


Spanish Parliament OK's military's role in Libya operation

Spain's lower house of Parliament voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to authorize the country's armed forces to participate in the international operation in Libya. The vote, which came after Spanish warplanes' first mission in the North African nation, was 336-3 with one abstention. Spanish law permits the government to commit forces in an emergency and then seek parliamentary approval.

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero asked for ratification of his administration's decision last Friday to take part in Operation Odyssey Dawn, which entails the imposition of a no-fly zone over Libya. Zapatero said that the operation has a "legal basis" established by U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973 and that the participating countries are acting out of their "responsibility to protect" the Libyan population that has suffered "generalized and systematic attacks" by the Moammar Gadhafi regime. The Socialist premier said that the operation's goal is not to bring down Gadhafi but to stop his violence against the Libyan people. Zapatero also said that the operation "will by no means include the occupation of Libyan territory."

The majority of Spanish political parties support the participation, though they also had questions about how the operation would be developed and the future of Libya. The leader of the main conservative opposition Popular Party, Mariano Rajoy, backed the decision to take part, but warned that "we could be getting into a long, entrenched conflict, a civil war that goes on for a long time in which international intervention will be unable to prevent a humanitarian disaster." One of the three lawmakers to vote against the intervention, United Left leader Gaspar Llamazares, openly criticized the international operation as grounded in "geostrategy," not defence of human rights. As soon as the voting was over, several people who had followed the debate from the visitors' gallery began chanting "no to war."

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