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Jan 16, 2012
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Spain’s regions need tough love treatment

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By Fiona Maharg-Bravo and Neil Unmack

The authors are Reuters Breakingviews columnists. The opinions expressed are their own.

Spanish regions are like teenagers pushing their parents to the limit. The country’s 17 autonomous regions, which are responsible for education and health (over 50 percent of total government spending), missed their fiscal targets again last year, and caused the country to miss its own. Madrid faces the same dilemma as the European Commission when it comes to ensuring compliance of member countries with the stability pact: how to force the regions to follow the rules?

Jan 6, 2012
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Spain is still struggling with its deficit maths

By Fiona Maharg-Bravo
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.

Spain’s new government can’t afford to ease into the New Year. It has inherited a deficit of more than 8 percent of GDP in 2011 and wants to stick to the target of bringing it down to 4.4 percent this year just as the economy is slowing down. The maths looks difficult, if not impossible.

Dec 9, 2011
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Spanish banking sector to pay for its sins

By Fiona Maharg-Bravo
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.

Spain wants its banking sector to pay for its sins – literally. Banco Sabadell is taking troubled lender CAM off Madrid’s hands, and Spain’s bank-backed deposit guarantee fund is helping by making a big capital injection. Such deals minimise the cost to the taxpayer, but aren’t a free lunch for the state and won’t solve the sector’s problems.

Nov 28, 2011
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Spain SA braces for change in political guard

By Fiona Maharg-Bravo
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.

The arrival of a new boss is always unsettling. What role Spain’s new government will play in the corporate world is still unclear after the landslide victory of Mariano Rajoy’s People’s Party last Sunday. Unlike the outgoing socialists, the conservative party was notorious for its heavy interventionism in the 1990s. But Spain has come a long way since then. And Rajoy should be too busy stabilising the economy to rock the boat in Spain’s boardrooms.

Nov 21, 2011
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How to fix Spain’s real estate problem

By Fiona Maharg-Bravo
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.

Spain is suffering from a real estate hangover. One of the biggest problems facing Spanish banks is what to do with the real estate loans and foreclosed properties left over from the construction boom and bust. Now the opposition People’s party, which is expected to decisively win elections on Nov. 20, is said to be mulling the creation of a state-backed bad bank. Such an approach has been tried in Ireland with mixed success. It would be a high-risk strategy for Spain.

Nov 16, 2011
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Spanish debt storm piles the pressure on Rajoy

By Fiona Maharg-Bravo and Neil Unmack
The authors are Reuters Breakingviews columnists. The opinions expressed are their own.

Spain’s next government was never going to have much time to ease into the job. But the recent steep rise in borrowing costs – triggered by problems in Greece and Italy – will make life even tougher for Mariano Rajoy, whose opposition Popular Party is tipped by polls to win the elections on Nov. 20 by a wide margin.

Oct 31, 2011
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Spain isn’t as uncompetitive as you think

By Fiona Maharg-Bravo
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.

Few statistics about the Spanish economy are as depressing as the unemployment rate, which hit 21.5 percent in the third quarter. This is part of the hangover after a decade-long construction boom and a symptom of an uncompetitive economy. Yet even as the country’s jobless rate scales new heights, Spain’s exporters are surprisingly resilient. The snag is that there aren’t enough of them to get the country growing again anytime soon.

Oct 27, 2011
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EU bank recap too blunt an instrument for Spain

By Fiona Maharg Bravo
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.

Europe’s bank recap exercise misses the point in Spain. EU governments are hoping to restore confidence in the financial system by forcing lenders to clear a higher capital hurdle after recognising potential losses on sovereign debt. But the problem with Spanish banks is their exposure to real estate, not government bonds.

Jul 28, 2011
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Santander’s Spanish dilemma

By Fiona Maharg-Bravo and George Hay
The authors are Reuters Breakingviews columnists. The opinions expressed are their own.

Banco Santander, Spain’s biggest bank, may have passed the European-wide bank stress tests easily, but its first-half results were less of a breeze. Profit at the $85 billion institution fell short of expectations thanks to a one-off charge in the United Kingdom. But contagion from its own sovereign is still the bigger worry, even though Spain is a fraction of global business. Santander needs to do more to clear the danger.

May 20, 2011
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BP no longer fighting Macondo battle alone

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.

By Fiona Maharg Bravo

BP is no longer fighting the Macondo battle alone. For over a year since the tragic explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico, BP’s partners in the well have blamed the UK oil major for the accident and refused to pay any bills. Now Mistui, with a 10 percent stake in the well, has agreed to pay BP $1.1 billion. The amount may be small, but the move is significant.

    • About Fiona

      "Fiona Maharg-Bravo is breakingviews´ Madrid correspondent. Fiona joined breakingviews in 2003 in London, covering media, transport, energy and Spain. Previously she spent a few months at the Financial Times as winner of the 2002 Nico Colchester Fellowship. Before becoming a journalist, Fiona worked nearly five years in banking, first at JP Morgan in equity capital markets and leveraged finance groups and then at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. She gained a BA/MA (Phi Beta Kappa) from the University of Chicago in Political Science and International Relations and a Diploma in Economics from Cambridge University."
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