>Spain backtracks on China investment claim

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What fools they look like, but then again, this is nothing new for Zapatero

Spain backtracks on China investment claim

By Miles Johnson in Madrid
Published: April 14 2011 13:57 | Last updated: April 14 2011 13:57
The Spanish government has been forced into an embarrassing reversal after claims that Spain had secured up to €9bn in investment in its troubled savings banks from China were denied by Beijing.
Spanish government officials said an “error of communication” had led to claims that China Investment Corporation, one of the country’s sovereign wealth funds, was considering the €9bn investment after José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, Spain’s prime minister, met Chinese leaders this week.
“China has said it will continue to buy Spanish government debt, and is interested in participating in the restructuring of the savings banks, but it is too early to name specific amounts of investments,” the Spanish government said.
Mr Zapatero is on an official visit to China and Singapore to meet Asian investors to promote Spain’s government debt and financial sector.
A CIC official earlier told Reuters that reports in the Spanish media of the investment were false. CIC is known to no longer have available funds to invest abroad, and the €9bn ($13.5bn) figure would dwarf its largest previous investment which was a $5bn stake in Morgan Stanley made in 2007.
The admission of error came as Spain’s central bank was finalising its approval of plans submitted by the country’s regional savings banks, known as cajas, to raise new capital to meet a €15bn shortfall that has shaken investor confidence in the stability of the Spanish economy.
The previously little-known and privately held cajas were left gasping for new capital after loans made during Spain’s property bubble began to sour and its economy fell into recession.
Tough economic reforms led by Mr Zapatero’s socialist government, including freezing civil service pay and slashing Spain’s budget deficit, have helped the country partially regain the confidence of financial markets after some investors had started to view Spain as being at risk of following Greece, Ireland and Portugal into taking European Union rescue funds.
The interest investors demand to hold Spanish government debt over German bonds has fallen sharply since the start of the year.
On Thursday, however, after the confusion over Chinese investment in the cajas and ahead of the finalisation of their own capital raising plans, the spread between Spanish and German 10-year debt rose by 9 basis points to 190bp.
Spain’s outreach to China for investment comes after the prime minister of Qatar said in February that his country would invest €300m in Spanish banks after expressing confidence in the Spanish economy during a visit to Madrid.
Since then there have been no further details about which institutions Qatar would invest in, nor what form any investment would take.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2011.

FT.com / Europe – Spain backtracks on China investment claim

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