The Sánchez Executive joins a new business battle with the opa in Sabadell

The Government of Pedro Sánchez has not hesitated to take sides against BBVA's hostile takeover of Banco Sabadell.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
11 May 2024 Saturday 23:36
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The Sánchez Executive joins a new business battle with the opa in Sabadell

The Government of Pedro Sánchez has not hesitated to take sides against BBVA's hostile takeover of Banco Sabadell. The Minister of Economy, Carlos Cuerpo, assured this same week that the Executive "will have the last word" if the offer ends up going ahead.

With the takeover of Sabadell, the Spanish Government embarks on a new business battle. However, it is not the only front he has open. Talgo, Telefónica, and Naturgy are folders that accumulate on the table, although some are more advanced than others. In fact, in the case of Naturgy, the entry of a partner from Abu Dhabi has already been agreed with Criteria, the main shareholder. The Executive has a long list of battles in strategic sectors and large corporations that have mostly ended with victories in their favor.

Beyond Sabadell, the central government has work ahead of it with the takeover of Talgo. The Hungarian group Magyar Vagon presented in March an offer for the railway manufacturer, a company considered strategic, for 619 million. The news did not go down well. The Minister of Transport, Óscar Puente, evidenced a few days ago the intentions of the Executive to put together a response in which Sepi could play a leading role.

The Government has the Telefónica portfolio more on track. The announcement of the Saudi operator STC to take 9.9% of the capital of the Spanish multinational last September set off all the alarms. The operator chaired by José María Álvarez Pallete is a company considered strategic due to its link with national defense and security.

The response of the Executive was to activate Sepi to take a stake for the same percentage and send a message to STC that they were not welcome. So far, the State has bought 7% of Telefónica's capital, with an investment of around 1,600 million. This same week, Sepi communicated to the CNMV the proposal of Carlos Ocaña as Sunday advisor. For its part, STC currently maintains its stake at 4.9%, and has 5% in derivatives that it could activate later, although with prior permission from the Executive.

It also seems to have resolved the shareholding reorganization of Naturgy, another strategic company for the Spanish economy. After the failed IFM takeover (2022) and BlackRock's purchase of Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP) last January, Criteria, the main partner of the energy multinational (26.7%), announced in April that negotiates an alliance with Taqa, the Abu Dhabi energy company, to take control of the multinational with the blessing of the Spanish Government. The market predicts that the Arab group will disburse about 10,000 million.

In the previous legislature, the Central Government engaged in a bloody battle for the control of Indra, a technological multinational, which also ended in a victory. The Executive succeeded in appointing Marc Murtra as non-executive president in May 2021, replacing Fernando Abril-Martorell, elected under the government of Mariano Rajoy. A year later, he raised the weight of Sepi to 28% of the capital and gave way to almost all the independent directors opposed to his strategy in the company.

As a result of the war in Ukraine and its derivatives, the Government has also faced banking and energy companies with extraordinary taxes on these sectors. Despite the business rejection, the Government has also assured that they could become permanent.

In this long list of business conflicts, the Government did have a defeat. The Executive has failed to prevent the change of Ferrovial's registered office to the Netherlands, a destination with extensive tax advantages, with the aim of reorganizing its structure and facilitating its debut on the New York Stock Exchange. Despite public pressure and the possibility of losing tax incentives, the company led by Rafael del Pino went ahead with its plan.