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Business Over Tapas (NOV 01st , 2013)

By Lenox Napier and Andrew Brociner

miércoles 22 de octubre de 2014, 11:21h

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 businessovertapas.com - email:  [email protected] - Note: Underlined words or phrases are links to the Internet. Right click and press 'Control' on your keyboard to access.

Editorial:

Who likes to be spied upon? And, no, we aren't all plotting to blow anyone up in the immediate future... a point that our lords and masters must know perfectly well (they must, mustn’t they?). I am sure that those who do plan any crazed attacks have twigged to this spying-wheeze and use code, meaningful winks or carrier pigeons (although, comparing terror atrocities in the Land of the Free with the number of ordinary everyday shootings in America, there doesn't seem to be that many of them). Perhaps the vast amount spent on these things could be spent in a better way.

Spying, however, is much more than a lunatic organisation in some underground bunker with headphones, wirelesses and a keyboard being manned by a young and spotty student who had briefly worked as a 'hacker'. The tax people regularly spy on your bank accounts, the neighbour observes you from behind her curtain, the surveillance camera in the high street notes your passing, the supermarket analyses your list of purchases, the policeman checks your speed, the 'cookie' records your visit on the website... and the thief watches your home to see when you are away. 

Housing:

The Times (subscription) has an article called Britons’ Spanish paradise reduced to a pile of rubble which begins: 'It was a place in the Spanish sun where a British couple had hoped to find peace and tranquillity in retirement. Today, the €160,000 villa sits abandoned, like a house looted during war time, with its fittings stripped by thieves, the doors ripped from the frames and the garden overgrown'...  An editorial (also subscription) in the same paper begins: 'Planning laws are a fairly basic cornerstone of modern property rights, which are in themselves a fairly basic cornerstone of modern democracy. Normally, those found in breach of them deserve short shrift. In Spain, however, an injustice is being perpetuated. Thousands of British home-owners who bought Spanish properties are living in fear of the day the bulldozers arrive. Meanwhile, the criminals and corrupt officials who lured them into this trap often face hardly any sanction at all'...

'AUAN believes that the upset and dismay of broad sections of society in Almería is evident as a result of the recent demolition of two houses purchased in good faith in Cantoria. According to AUAN, these houses were demolished without prior compensation for the home owners, infringing their Human Rights. In response AUAN is now making a public appeal to Town Halls to invoke the Statutes of the Autonomy of Andalucía and present a popular legislative initiative calling for changes in the law'... From The Entertainer Online.

'According to the latest IMIE Index prepared by real estate appraiser, Tinsa, the price of housing continues to decline, but to a lesser extent. During the third quarter of 2013, the annual adjustment amounted to -9.3% (more than one point lower than the decline registered in the second quarter, which was -10.5%, and nearly three points lower than the first quarter, of -12.1%). Tinsa noted that only the Balearic Islands registered a price increase in this quarter (+0.4%), and stressed that “although it is not very large, it is still significant at the present time”... From Kyero. 

'A disqualified director has told a criminal court in Spain that his company’s alleged role in an £11.2 million overseas scam is ‘unfounded’. Colin Thomas, of Town Hill, Yoxall, set up Ocean View Properties (OVP), which is accused of defrauding customers of hundreds of thousands of pounds in lost deposits.

OVP sold off-plan apartments at the planned luxury Estepona Beach and Country Club, near Marbella, on the Costa del Sol, for Spanish development company Sun Golf. But the land was never owned by Sun Golf and work never began'... From The Burton Mail.

Tourism:

Nearly half of Britons who travel abroad use a 'package tour'.  In 2010, 37 per cent of Britons opted for this form of organization. Agencies and tour operators between them account for 62% of all British travel arrangements.

The use of the organized tour maintains its popularity in United Kingdom. According to a study from the Association of British Travel Agencies (ABTA), 46% of British citizens who travelled abroad in the period between September 2012 and August of this year hired a tourist package. From Nexotour.

Finance:

'...And yet it seems clear that investor sentiment toward Spanish assets has changed. Foreign money is starting to flow back into the peninsula, and even more importantly, the owners of this money are remarkably diverse, as are the targets of their investments: sovereign debt, real estate and corporate acquisitions.

This liquidity is coming partly from the so-called vulture funds, but also from hedge funds, large personal fortunes, pension plans and sovereign funds. So far this year, international investors have bought variable-yield securities, real estate and company stock worth nearly 14 billion euros. Experts consulted by this newspaper believe this capital will keep flowing in the short term, but they warn about the risk of premature celebrations, since there are still many financial challenges up ahead'... From an editorial in El País in English.

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)

'The BFA-Bankia group recorded post-tax profits of 648 million euros in the first nine months of the year — a result that does not include the effect of an exchange of hybrid instruments for capital. The result, achieved after a 22.424-billion-euro injection of public funds, contrasts with the over 10 billion in losses registered over the same period a year earlier, after provisioning 10.1 billion for defaults.

Nevertheless, all its income statement margins remain in the negative, among other reasons because of the closure of  929 offices. "I think we are the only bank in Europe that has closed a third of its network in a year," said Bankia number two José Sevilla. Twenty-five percent of the lender's margin came from the purchase of portfolios of public debt at high rates with cheap financing from the European Central Bank'... From El País in English.

According to the EPA, the paro, unemployment, is down slightly across Spain for the Third Quarter (thanks, in part, to tourist related or service-sector jobs) except in Andalucía, where it is up at 36.37%, with the winter approaching! Almería currently stands at 38.77%. There are two provinces that are in even worse shape than Almería: Jaén at 40.37% and Granada at 38.85%. The autonomous city of Melilla is at 41.2%. Spain as a whole is at 25.98%, brought down, evidently, by the Andalucía figures...

Corruption:

'An expert who examined the bank accounts of Carlos Fabra, the former chief of Castellón province who faces jail terms in an ongoing trial for tax fraud, said that he and his wife's financial strategy is "the first one you study in the handbooks on how to uncover black money. It is a very well-known operation: you ask for a loan and return it in cash," said Conrado M. Caviró, head of the AEAT tax agency's support unit for the Anti-corruption Attorney's Office'... From El País in English.

'Spain's Princess Cristina could be dragged into court after revelations she may have dodged tax by signing a fake contract in which rented out office space in her own home to herself.

A lawyer for Princess Cristina, the youngest daughter of Spain's King Juan Carlos, said on Tuesday there was a "possibility" she would face questioning in court after Spain's El Mundo newspaper on Monday published details of the contract...

...By signing that contract, Cristina and her husband managed to artificially reduce the earnings of Aizoon  — a company they jointly owned — thus bringing down tax bills, the paper claimed'... From The Local.

Spying:

'Spain summoned the US ambassador on Monday to denounce newly reported mass US eavesdropping on its citizens' telephone calls as "inappropriate and unacceptable" while Spain's foreign minister said the scandal could rupture the climate of trust between the two allies. The Spanish government demanded details as it called in US Ambassador James Costos to explain the latest allegations in a growing scandal over US snooping on the telephone and online communications of ordinary citizens and world leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel'... From The Local.

'A report that the National Security Agency monitored 60 million Spanish telephone calls over the course of a one-month period prompted calls from Spain that that the United States must explain the extent of its intelligence gathering activities.

The report -- based on documents provided by Edward Snowden, authored by Glenn Greenwald, and published in the newspaper El Mundo -- covered NSA monitoring of phone calls in Spain between Dec. 10, 2012, and Jan. 8, 2013. The tracking carried out by the agency appears to have focused on the serial number of the phones used, who made and received the phone call, and its duration -- and not the content of the call. The Spanish Foreign Ministry said that such activities, if confirmed, would be "improper and unacceptable between partners and friendly countries."... From Foreign Policy Magazine.

Or, wait a minute... 'Widespread electronic spying that ignited a political fire-storm in France and Spain recently was carried out by their own intelligence services and not by the National Security Agency, U.S. officials say... The new disclosure upends the version of events as reported in Europe in recent days, and puts a spotlight on the role of European intelligence services that work closely with the NSA, suggesting a greater level of European involvement in global surveillance'... From The Wall Street Journal. More in Wednesday's El Mundo: 'The intrusion of the American intelligence service in the everyday life of millions of Spanish was more fruit of the cooperation between both countries than a simple abuse of American power. Spanish Intelligence not only knew the work of the NSA, but it also facilitated its tasks, according to documents leaked by Edward Snowden'...

(And by the way) from the Guardian, this quote from Glen Greenwald: '...all of these governments keep saying how newsworthy these revelations are, how profound are the violations they expose, how happy they are to learn of all this, how devoted they are to reform. If that's true, why are they allowing the person who enabled all these disclosures – Edward Snowden – to be targeted for persecution by the US government for the "crime" of blowing the whistle on all of this?'...

Love That Paperwork:

It's something of an 'old chestnut', the story that Spain is so swamped in paperwork, rules and regulations that it's hard to open a business here, but El Mundo returns to the subject: 'According to the World Bank, over in Tunisia, Kazakhstan, Cyprus, Armenia, Rwanda, Mauritius or Thailand it is easier to do business than in Spain. Not to mention in almost all countries of the EU. This is revealed in 'Doing Business 2014'...   The annual ranking compiled by the agency that measures opening up a business in any of 189 countries, scores Spain in the world league at 142 for 'starting a business', 52 for 'ease of doing business' – last year we were 42 – 'dealing with construction permits', where Spain managed to alight on the 98th position. Finally, 'protecting investors' also comes in at 98.

Various:

'A report that the National Security Agency monitored 60 million Spanish telephone calls over the course of a one-month period prompted calls from Spain that that the United States must explain the extent of its intelligence gathering activities.

The report -- based on documents provided by Edward Snowden, authored by Glenn Greenwald, and published in the newspaper El Mundo -- covered NSA monitoring of phone calls in Spain between Dec. 10, 2012, and Jan. 8, 2013. The tracking carried out by the agency appears to have focused on the serial number of the phones used, who made and received the phone call, and its duration -- and not the content of the call. The Spanish Foreign Ministry said that such activities, if confirmed, would be "improper and unacceptable between partners and friendly countries."... From Foreign Policy Magazine.

'Spain's health service is seeing the biggest cuts ever in next year's budget with a reduction of 35.6 per cent. Although the State budget for 2014 shows increases in most areas, once Social Security contributions, taxes and other dues paid by the workforce in the public and private sector, and taxes paid by the electricity sector, the actual spending by the State next year has fallen by 4.7 per cent. The health service reduction of 35.6 per cent is the highest cut of all, whilst the ministry of industry has seen the highest increase in funding, at 31.6 per cent'...  From Think Spain (H/T Colin)

'With more than 20 years experience of diplomacy – and a Spanish wife – our new man in Madrid is more than qualified for the job. Oxford educated Simon Manley has begun his new role by stressing the economic interdependence between the UK and Spain. Manley, who has a degree in International Relations, said: “I am delighted to be here in Spain and look forward to strengthening our broad and deep bilateral relationship. Prior to his appointment Manley was Director Europe at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) from 2011 to 2013. He is married to María Isabel Fernández Utges Manley, an intellectual property, competition and regulatory lawyer'. From The Olive Press.

With 'la Crisis' (and the 21% IVA on culture), people may be seeing less theatre, or films, or concerts, but TV watching has gone up. The average Spaniard watches 246 minutes a day of this intrusive 'entertainment'. Sixty two and a half days a year. Graph and item at El Huff Post here.

Forbes has just released the Spain Rich List for 2013, with Amancio Ortega, the clothing czar, at the top with 'an estimated' wealth of 47,600 million euros. Following him is the man who owns Mercadona, Juan Roig, with 5,800 million and, in third place, Amancio's daughter Sandra with 5,400 million. The 'Top Thirty' are listed here

'It is highly likely Spain will be suing Jamaica for reparations. If they do, surely they will acknowledge the initiative taken by Mike Henry, Verene Shepherd et al who are leading a campaign of that nature for our island...

...Spain, it has been pointed out in the British press, are in need of a distraction from some recent domestic revelations. As you are probably aware, Spain is once more clamouring for the return of Gibraltar, that tiny tip of land facing the strategically important straits leading into the Mediterranean from the Atlantic.

It was originally ceded 'in perpetuity' exactly 300 years ago by the Treaty of Utrecht at the end of the Spanish War of Succession'... Spain to demand reparations from us, from The Jamaica Gleaner. More from this comical article: '...As the present Gibraltar issue loses traction, the Spanish government must surely consider looking actively at seeking reparation from Jamaica for 50 years of plundering by Port Royal-based buccaneers in between 1615 and 1671.

One of the main problems will be determining exactly how much was stolen, looted, and extracted from Spain's citizens, cities and ships. Luckily, the Spanish bureaucracy in the 17th century kept detailed records distorted only when the governor of a city wanted to exaggerate his losses in the hope of getting more troops and a larger fortress to defend its citizens when next attacked. As you might guess, the buccaneers for their part usually underestimated their 'earnings' to minimise having to reserve the king's share'...

Letters

Re: Spain the train,

An alternative to the AVE, was converting the whole network to European gauge and selling the ports of Málaga, Algeciras, Cadiz, Lisbon and Porto as first landfall for ships coming to Europe around Africa and from most of the Americas. The Economist, years ago, came up with "the one thousand for a thousand" formula: freight trains become profitable when they take 1000 tons 1000 kilometres. Several days sailing time are involved in getting to Marseille or Rotterdam, and in the case of Rotterdam may be lengthened by the notoriously bad weather of the Bay of Biscay. All told, there was an opportunity to take business away from more northerly West European ports. Of course, Bilbao and Barcelona, the largest Spanish ports might well have tried to scupper any such scheme. So who's for buying waterfront property in Algeciras, the deepest water port of the five.

Charlie

Finally:

The top 5 Romantic Hotels in Andalucía 2013. These are Hotel Carmen de la Alcubilla del Caracol (Granada), Hotel Claude (Marbella), Hotel Corral del Rey (Seville), Hotel Hospes Palacio de Bailío (Cordoba) and Hotel Utopía (Benalup) Found at Tertulia Andaluza (Site in English).

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