Caja Madrid swoops on Iberia

Spanish bank Caja Madrid has acquired the 6.9% stake held by BBVA to become the leading shareholder in Iberia. The deal, at €3.6 a share, makes Caja Madrid Iberia’s leading shareholder with 16.9%. The bank said on November 20 that it does not plan to sell its expanded stake in airline Iberia, a development that could stunt bids by the consortia.

In the last few days Gala, the Spanish private equity firm, and some other Spanish investors have approached Iberia, the Spanish airline, regarding a potential takeover bid at €3.60 to €3.90 per share.

The Gala-led consortium includes Alicia Koplowitz, the Spanish private investor who controls Omega Capital, and Manuel Jove, another Spanish private investor. Gala’s consortium is reported to include Juan Jose Hidalgo, who chairs the travel company Globalia, as well as several regional banks and a couple of Spanish investment banks.

Gala is being advised by Citi, the US investment bank, and Spanish investment banks Nmas1 and GBS Finanzas. Citigroup is understood to be providing financing for the Gala-led consortium. The Gala-led consortium does not include any rival international airlines, although the inclusion of an airline partner was initially stipulated as a condition of bidding.

Gala is competing against a potential bid from a consortium led by British Airways, Iberia’s UK rival, and TPG, the US private equity group. The consortium led by British Airways is understood to have secured financing for a potential offer. Citi, Royal Bank of Scotland and Natixis are likely to provide financing for the BA/TPG consortium offer. Three Spanish private equity firms – Vista Capital, Quercus Equity and Ibersuizs – could well take a 51% equity stake in the TPG/BA consortium bid.

There is talk that a second consortium of Spanish bidders might make an offer for Iberia. Air France-KLM might also join the bidding.