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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.

Dec 17, 2010
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Why mortgages might be Spain’s next headache

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

MADRID — Are mortgages the next headache for Spanish banks? Regulators think the country’s 630 billion euro home loan market can survive the slump relatively unscathed, just as in the last real estate crisis of 1992-1993. Spanish banks’ biggest problem is bad loans made to real estate developers. But it would be optimistic to assume that mortgages will emerge unscathed.

Nov 23, 2010
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Four events Spain doesn’t want to happen

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

LONDON — Spain is feeling the heat in the debt markets. Fears of contagion explain why it paid a much higher yield on short-term treasury bills than the same issue from last month. The country may avoid a debt crisis if it stays its course. But an unexpected event throwing doubt on the true state of the country’s finances could precipitate the mother of all bailouts. Here are four of the unpleasant surprises that could trigger a meltdown.

Nov 4, 2010
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Murdoch will have to work to get his way in the UK

During the UK election campaign, Rupert Murdoch’s newspapers attacked the Liberal Democrats with headlines like “Lib-Dumb exclusive.” It shouldn’t therefore come as a complete surprise that Vince Cable, the Lib Dem who is now UK business secretary, has ordered a probe into whether the 12.3 billion pound bid by the media mogul’s News Corporation to take full control of British Sky Broadcasting is against the public interest.

Yet while politics may have influenced his decision, Cable has other reasons to probe the deal. Rival UK media groups vociferously oppose it: they fear that, in an online world, the combination of News Corp and BSkyB might kill off other UK newspapers—for example, by bundling Murdoch’s newspaper websites with Sky subscriptions.

Nov 2, 2010
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BP’s second kitchen-sinking can’t mask comeback

It will be a long time before BP is back to business as usual following the Gulf of Mexico disaster. The UK oil and gas major has just upped its estimate of costs by $7.7 billion to $39.9 billion, in what investors must hope is the second kitchen-sinking exercise following the disaster—albeit the first under new chief executive Bob Dudley. But the hit can’t mask what looks like the makings of BP’s recovery.

The upward revision to the spill cost was twice as big as some analysts had expected—BP blamed delays in capping its leaking well—but the shares still rose on the news. That isn’t so strange. The Gulf of Mexico disaster has already wiped some $60 billion from BP’s market value, while global markets are little changed from when the Macondo well blew out in April. After tax, the hit falls to $27 billion. That number is still probably a best guess. A gross negligence charge for BP would send the bill skyrocketing. Equally, the costs could fall if BP’s partners in the stricken well end up assuming their 35 percent share of the liability.

    • 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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