MADRID, April 9 (Reuters) - Spanish banking group La Caixa
is looking to sell a package of 12,000 properties for more than
1.5 billion euros ($2 billion), in what would be a rare
large-scale disposal of housing assets held by lenders, a source
with knowledge of the talks said.
Spanish banks, crippled by the country's real estate market
crash five years ago, are starting to make a big push to purge
their books of repossessed homes and buildings after writing
down troubled property assets last year in a government-enforced
Major deals such as the one La Caixa is eyeing have been
very rare, however, despite interest from international
investors such as private equity firms and hedge funds in
picking up bundles of discounted property deals.
Price has so far been a key obstacle, with investors seeking
discounts that banks often consider too low.
"The process is at a very early stage and could be done in
various stages, so for now the numbers are just an estimate,"
the source said.
Barcelona-based La Caixa, which controls commercial banking
business Caixabank, declined to comment.
The package of properties would include flats and housing in
the Spanish capital of Madrid, Barcelona, and other major
cities, the source said.
These type of assets, which are easier to sell on or rent
out than properties in remote developments built up during
Spain's real estate boom, have so far found many willing
investors, who may pay more than for other assets.
But so far most sales of repossessed housing by banks have
happened piecemeal, or in small packages.
Spain had to rescue several banks hurt by the property crash
last year with 41 billion euros in European funds. Those banks
have transferred soured property loans and assets to a so-called
bad bank, which will also be hoping to sell the assets on.
Healthier Spanish banks now want to get much of their
property exposure off their books before sales from the bad bank
pick up, to avoid having to compete.
International investors have also been circling Spanish
companies that manage properties or service mortgage debt, many
of which are owned by Spanish banks.
La Caixa has hired Morgan Stanley to sell a stake in its
property management company, sources previously told Reuters.
($1 = 0.7658 euros)
(Reporting by Jesus Aguado; Writing by Sarah White; Editing by