24 de febrero de 2020, 6:08:50

Business Over Tapas (14th  November 2013

By Lenox Napier and Andrew Brociner

A digest of this week's Spanish financial, political and social news aimed primarily at Foreign Property Owners:  with Lenox Napier and Andrew Brociner. For subscriptions and other information about this site, go to -  email:  [email protected]  

Note: Underlined words or phrases are links to the Internet. Right click and press 'Control' on your keyboard to access.


The Spanish media is aghast at the ruling of the Prestige disaster, which as usual took years to come to court, after the Aznar Government was absolved from any blame following the mismanagement of the crisis. The oil tanker Prestige sank in heavy seas in late November 2002 and deposited tar 'chapapote' along the northern Spanish coast for 1600 kms. Volunteers worked for months to clean the beaches and Spain awoke to the idea of a major environmental disaster. '...Reading from a lengthy sentence, presiding Judge Juan Luis Pla also said that the government of Prime Minister José María Aznar should not be held responsible for the November 13, 2002 incident, in which some 63,000 tons of crude were spilled into the Atlantic, polluting Spain’s north-western coastline. “No one knows exactly what caused the disaster,” Pla said yesterday, which marked the 11th anniversary of the disaster. “There is no criminal responsibility.”... (From El País in English).


'Repossessed residential properties in Spain sold on average for about 72 percent less than their original value during the first half of 2013, according to data compiled by Fitch Ratings.

The sharp drop in property values are "emblematic of the dysfunctional state of the property market," characterized by a supply and demand mismatch, director Carlos Masip said in the report released today. The average discounted price increased from 59 percent last year and 42 percent in 2009, Bloomberg reports. The report analysed 7,406 properties sold since 2009'... From The World Property Channel.

'If you would like to buy an 11th-century castle, with its crenelations and central courtyard included and don't know what real estate agency to contact? Don't worry because it's easy enough to buy this castle right in the municipality of Canal de Berdún (Huesca). And for only half a million euros, although you will need to inject more money in developing your new possession into a destination worthy of kings. This property is one of the 35 assets that the so-called Sareb Bad Bank has begun to market under the name of Proyecto Paramount, a collection of exclusive dwellings whose prices range from 327,000 to 3,150,000 euros. Most are single-family houses with all kinds of amenities, but besides the castle there are some other jewels'... Expansion writes of the Sareb portfolio.

'The new coastal law ('Ley de Costas') can wind up by having more relieved home-owners than expected and, consequently, a greater impact on the Spanish coast. The Secretary of State for the Environment, Federico Ramos, estimates that about 140,000 houses on the coast are located in areas considered as the second line of beach (as far as planning violations are concerned) - qualifying with the reduction from 100 to 20 meters of the area of major protection, and move from being subjected to rigorous controls to having a free hand to build with the appropriate permissions of their municipalities or communities'... From El País.

What happened at the protest against the demolitions in Cantoria last Saturday? Report at Spanish Shilling.

'The association of promoters of the province of Alicante, 'Provia', has delivered a report to the Government which contains a series of measures "necessary for the promotion of foreign residential tourism”. The document has been prepared by developers from Alicante in close collaboration with those from Murcia and Málaga.

Among the measures proposed by the promoters is a request to find solutions to the lack of financing by credit institutions, the obligation to provide controlled housing ('VPOs') and for 'a strict technical and urban development regulation» in the three autonomous communities'... From La Verdad de Alicante.

'Spain has the highest taxation on the purchase of a used house, at an average 7%, compared to a world average of 3.4%, according to a study by the auditing firm UHY Fay and Co. In comparison to Spain, the study also reveals how other European economies also taxed purchases of real estate. France, Italy, Austria, the Czech Republic and Germany impose an average rate of 4.5%. In Spain, the property transfer tax ('ITP') varies depending on the region where the house is purchased. For example, in Andalucía, the Baleares, Cantabria, Asturias or Catalonia the ITP varies between 8% and 10%. in Madrid from the coming year, the ITP will drop to 6% from the current 7%'... From Idealista.


A report on the World Travel Market in London, from Sur in English: '...Monday saw the first good news: British Airways announced that it would resume its flights between Malaga and Heathrow airport in March next year. The airline stopped flying between the Costa del Sol and its busy UK hub two years ago, reducing the connection opportunities with places as far off Australia and Asia.

Rafael Rodríguez, head of Tourism at the Junta de Andalucía, expressed his "great satisfaction" at the decision. "It will open up new prospects in markets that are further away and whose best links are with Heathrow," he said'...


'The President of Telefonica and the Business Council for Competitiveness, César Alierta, says that the recession is over and consequently the economic crisis in Spain. He confided on Monday in Santiago de Compostela to the Media that "the crisis has clearly ended in Spain and money is coming in because people see that this is a country of opportunities"... From El Mundo.

Forbes on how Spain’s banks are close to coming full circle:  '...Halfway through 2012, the new government had to ask for up to 100 billion euros in aid to help recapitalize the sector. It seemed for a while as though the country was on the brink of catastrophe. But now, little more than a year later, financial experts in Madrid are once again saying that Spain’s banks are in much better shape than many of their peers in other European countries.

So what has changed?...'

'The Junta de Andalucía intends to equip itself with a public bank as an instrument to improve the financing of the regional economy in response to what it considers an inadequate performance from traditional private banking. In a move that could be imitated by other autonomous communities, the Junta is studying plans to have a public financial institution, whose impact is currently under discussion between the two members of the Government Coalition, the PSOE and Izquierda Unida'... From El Mundo. The paper says that the Junta is considering buying an existing bank for its purposes, such as the Banco Europeo de Finanzas.


The UGT, Spain's second largest trade union after the CCOO and closely allied to the PSOE (Wikipedia), has been in trouble before, with the PSV homes-for-workers scandal dating from 1993, and now once again the union is in the news. El Mundo is breaking the story of how the Andalucian branch of the UGT has been taking a 15% commission on all monies that travel through its books, and how the UGT controls the Instituto de Formación y Estudios Sociales (IFES) which receives massive funding from the Government and the EU for social studies and job preparation. 

'The former bosses of the Caja de Ahorros del Mediterraneo (CAM) Roberto López Abad, Daniel Gil and César Veliz had intended to flee to Curaçao, the former Dutch Antilles, according to the High Court judge Javier Gomez Bermudez, who ordered the arrest of the three former senior members of the savings bank last week'... From El Mundo. By yesterday, Roberto López Abad had managed to pay a major bail of  1.5 million euros and had regained his conditional freedom, while Daniel Gil was able to pay his bail of 400,000€ in just one day (El Mundo). The CAM has apparently diverted an estimated 247 million euros to fiscal paradises and had defrauded Hacienda of 31 million euros (El Mundo).

'The owners of the Sandos Hotels & Resorts chain, Juan Ferri and Joseph Baldo, remain at large following an order of search and arrest by the High Court judge Javier Gomez Bermudez for their alleged links to a plot to evade tax through hotel investment in the Dominican Republic, Mexico and Tenerife'... From Preferente. More: '...being the instigators of Valfensal society for the purpose of defrauding millions of euros from Hacienda, together with several directors of the Caja de Ahorros Mediterráneo...' (update).

'The man accused of spearheading the ERE scandal has been released from jail after his family stumped up €200,000 in bail money. Juan Lanzas has been imprisoned in Sevilla since March, charged with five counts of embezzling public funds, breach of trust, forgery, conspiracy and bribery.

The trade union leader was met by his daughter last Friday at the prison gates, but refused to comment to the gathered media. The payment of the bail follows the lifting of an embargo on the bank accounts of the trade union leader´s family'... From The Olive Press.


'The leader of the main opposition Socialist Party (PSOE), Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, issued a rallying cry in his closing address at the party’s political conference held in Madrid over the weekend. “We are not the same!” he said in reference to the governing Popular Party, and if in straying from its left-of-center political habitat in recent years the Socialists had given the impression that they were, that assumption will end as of now because “the PSOE is back.”

In an impassioned speech, Rubalcaba said that his party will base its regeneration on presenting an alternative to Spain’s “insensitive government” and “rebuilding everything that the right is destroying. [The PP] is gambling with the welfare state.”... From El País in English. In fact, many socialists have had enough of Rubalcaba's lacklustre performance and are casting about for a new leader or, at least, some democratic formula for primaries. Carme Chacón and Paxti López being possible champions... El Mundo has a laugh at Rubalcaba with its title on Monday: 'El PSOE ha vuelto: Rubalcaba se queda' – The PSOE is Back, Rubalcaba Stays! A survey in the same paper asks 'Is the PSOE stronger after its political meeting this past weekend?'. 84% say 'no'!

On the same subject, El Espía en el Congreso asks: 'How it is possible that in a country plundered and ruined by its government, the main opposition party will lose even more votes than the party in power? Corrupt mayors, millionaire ministers, ruthless policies, a vertical Trade Union (UGT) whose rottenness and corruption is denounced by their own affiliate base, and politicals that fly "business class" with public money but are afraid to appear on the street because they'll be booed or beaten: these are the everyday realities of a political formation that follows the same path as the Greek PASOK, and the evident contempt by the ordinary citizen to its recent past, its deceptions and its double standards'... the article helpfully continues with examples.

'Politics is Spain's largest industry, confirms the State Auditor', writes David Jackson. 'A new study shows that Politics is now the largest Spanish employer, according to the State Auditor (Tribunal de Cuentas). 145,000 jobs are directly assigned by political parties. For example, that’s more people than the entire staff of Spain’s six largest banks (Santander, BBVA, Caixabank, Popular, Sabadell y Bankinter).

In fact, it’s equivalent to the combined staff of the top third of the companies that make up Spain’s IBEX-35 stock exchange. Looking at this from another angle, it’s estimated that’s half a million direct votes controlled by these political parties'... (more at El Mundo).

'Is 'Spain's Fox News' leading its own Tea Party-style insurrection?' asks The Christian Science Monitor. 'Pedro J. Ramirez, the founder of daily El Mundo and a key shaper of Spain's conservative narrative, appears to have set his sights on conservative Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy', continues the paper. A little bit harsh perhaps, or maybe not. The article is here.
The Valencian public TV, Canal 9, has been closed following the disclosure of a shattering amount of money lost, waste and rank propaganda. The final paragraph of an article in El País gives a good example of the problems there: '...Another testimony of how the system worked comes from journalist Vicent G. Devís, who for several years ran the delegation in Brussels. He says that sometimes members of the Government of Valencia would arrive in limousines or by private aircraft and some general director would tell him: "Get me a couple of close-ups on film and don't tell the minister". According to his story, the members of the Government would be filmed before Parliament or the headquarters of the European Commission to give the impression that they were resolving issues when in reality, "the corresponding commissioner wouldn't even receive them". They would treat me like an employee, recalls the journalist'...


'The trial against Jesus Christ was entirely in keeping with the rules for legal procedures of the time, the author of a new Spanish study claims. The death of Jesus on the cross was not the end result of a thinly veiled legal farce, argues José María Ribas Alba, Professor in Roman Law at Spain’s Seville University in Spain's 20 minutos newspaper.

Instead, Jesus' court case ticked all the boxes for "what we know about the legal criteria of the time". The law professor has spent 25 years raking over the details of the trial against Jesus and has just released a 300-page study on what he believes is "one of the most important events in history".

His conclusion? The trial was perfectly legal'... From The Local.


'Inspectors may enter without a warrant in homes that produce solar energy', says Vózpopuli: 'Tremble those citizens who dare to produce solar energy from their homes. An amendment of the PP that was approved yesterday will allow inspectors access to private homes without a warrant in order to to review the legality of these facilities. This measure, together with solidarity tolls and fines of anything up to 60 million euros, will kill off the phenomenon of personal energy creation in Spain'...   'Spain's solar police to kick in your door', is the title of The Local's take on the same story.

'Tráfico is determined that drivers should change their old cars for new and modern ones. In addition to State-aid in the purchase of vehicles with the 'Plan Pive', the Government has announced it will fine drivers who have not passed their ITV vehicle inspection. The measure, which is not yet in operation, makes the control of vehicles driven with an outdated ITV much easier. A few months ago, the Guardia Civil began monitoring licence-plates through video programs, and thus controlling the validity of both car insurance and the ITV, so the application of this measure with radar was only a matter of time'... From Ideal.

'It was impossible to walk around certain parts of Madrid last Thursday without bumping into a former prime minister discussing his new book. In the morning, it was the ex-Socialist chief Felipe González expounding on leadership in times of crisis before a group of journalists gathered at Círculo de Bellas Artes, who really just wanted to ask him about the weekend party conference.

Then, in the afternoon, it was former conservative Prime Minister José María Aznar waxing nostalgic about his glory days of absolute majorities before a crowd of followers inside a hotel on the Castellana boulevard... and the same journalists from the morning launch were now here to press Aznar about his disagreements with Spain's current leader, Mariano Rajoy, of the Popular Party like himself'...  From El País in English. (Zapatero's book, El dilema, 600 días de vértigo, is due out on November 26th).

A study on shady Chinese business in Spain called 'The Invisible Empire' is in El País in English. A taste:   '...Elche's Chinese community plays an important role in the commercial life of the city, running around 150 of the companies operating out of its main industrial estate, and has since expanded its operations to the nearby town of Crevillent. Operation Heijin, carried out by the police in the area earlier this year, exposed widespread tax and customs duty evasion, with one shoe importer, Ou Lin Li, shown to have declared just a fifth of its activities to the authorities, avoiding the payment of an estimated 103 million euros between 2009 and 2011'...

'Spain eases path for ex-pat entrepreneurs' – a study by The Local – begins: 'A growing number of ex-pat entrepreneurs are making the most of new Spanish laws designed to breathe life into small businesses and promote foreign investment'... Features interviews with some who have taken the plunge.


(From last week's BoT) 'A change is coming from February 1, 2014 in bank accounts. No more transfers or direct debits with the current 20-digit account number. From that date, there's a new European standard which will change your bank account from twenty numbers to 24, adding, in the case of Spain, the country code and a control digit. This new IBAN code identifies your account at international level. (El Mundo has more)'

It might be useful to point out (if it isn't too late) that Spain is very largely in breach of EU law in respect of the IBAN system (and, indeed, internet bank transfers even inside Spain).

The law states that all electronic transfers made by the client (particulars) using the Internet Banking system (IBAN) shall be free up to a value of €12,500 and within the Euro-zone. I know this for a fact, confirmed to me by my bankers HSBC (who are outside the Euro-zone) and ABN-AMRO (where all transfers are free).

An exception is the Banca March (a solvent and well-run bank) who allow all Internet transfers made by their private account holders to be free inside Spain.  I think they charge €3.50 for IBAN transfers across the Euro-zone (outside Spain).  This shows an inkling of honesty which compares very badly indeed with the fragrantly dishonest law-breaking Sabadell Bank who even charge for Internet banking on transfers inside their own bank but - which is even more outrageous - between accounts in the same branch!!

I think they call them banksters?



The Spanish culture of enjoying a small nip of beer gets an upgrade with artisan brews, from Vaya Madrid:  '“Ponme una caña,” I beamed to the bartender, putting my newly acquired local knowledge to use and thus setting the course for de-guiri-fication some six years ago. Of course, I’d been getting cañas all along whenever I’d ordered a beer, but back then my request went something like “Quería una cerveza, por favor. Gracias.” Too timid, too polite, guiri total. At least I didn’t throw an usted in there somewhere, right?'...

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