Friday, February 22, 2013

Spain & Bankia

Euro 12.5 billion provision!

Now that's serious money , and its the kind of money that appears when banks become honest broker and sell their distressed assets for what they are worth today.  You see the Euro 12.5 billion hit (aka the largest bank provision, like for ever) is the result of Bankia selling its bad assets to a "bad bank" for what they are really worth.  In fact, this is usually done in a non-distressed context -- the buyer (really a government entity) looks at a reasonable treatment for the assets -- this is not a shark sale, but a friendly one where the buyer is not looking at making a killing just get its money (and costs) back.

On Wednesday I wrote about Spain & Greece, I didn't know that Martin Wolf from the FT had done a long piece on how things are getting really bad in Greece (we are talking social breakdown here).  I had no idea, although some inkling, that Greek hospital no longer have medicine for their patients; its like hospitals in sub-sahara Africa "we provide the doctor and the bed -- you, the patient and his family, provide everything else.

I read this morning that Spain government operating deficit is now around 10% of GDP -- worse than America (which has been cutting by the way).  Its not that government are spending more money -- well they are because more people are unemployed, but its because the economy is shrinking.

Now elections are taking place in Italy this weekend -- where according to many things are just peachy, so good in fact that rumours are that Silivio Berlusconi is apparently doing well (no polling since February 9th, as per Italian law) against  the liberals (Monti's gang), but there are several nationalist parties (especially in the rich North) that are looking at non-EU solution as a way for Italy to get back "on top". It should be interesting. the cards are mixed up because so many new parties have emerged and the level of corruption (and greed) has been unmasked -- it will be interesting to see how the voters behave.

It is hard to believe that all this european mess will end well (even France in in Merkel's bullseye), maybe Europe will get lucky, maybe they will flirt with disaster.  Then again things this side of the pond are not going too well, our American neighbours are flirting with sequestration (again) the idea that since both sides cannot agree on cuts, an automatic mechanism will enact the most painful cuts possible.  Who knew Americans could be so... well American.

Funny report in Time magazine that shows how well American private health care is working.  The same hospital charges private clients $230 for an X-ray that it produces for the American Government (Medicare) for $20... yes that's a 10 fold increase.  Drugs that it pays $3,000 a shot (cancer stuff) it bills for $13,000 and this is the kicker, the hospital's CEO take home pay last year $1.8 million... not a bad gig.  When you hear the GOP talk about medicine this is the bit they like, you take a desperate user (the sick person) who is unable to negotiate is forced to pay usurious fees to the provider.  18% of America's GDP is spent on healthcare   and based on virtually any serious metric America's health outcome is one of the worse in the OECD!

Needless to say that no serious discussion on this will emerge, ever

P.S.  The Bankia sale has serious consequences, because most deals where done on a syndicated basis, several banks will have to "re-evaluate" certain assets in view of this third party transaction.  My guess is that Thursday Credit Agricole's "surprise" write offs, may have been related to the Bankia asset sales!  Watch the other big players...


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