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Speaking to reporters Sunday, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy avoided using the term ‘bailout’ to describe the aid, calling it instead a credit line without the strict austerity conditions that have accompanied bailouts for Greece, Portugal and Ireland.
“When people lend money, they never do it for free. They want to know what is done with the money,” said Joaquin Almunia, the European Competition Commissioner.
“I am not talking about just the obligation to pay back the money, but also some other kind of terms,” he told Cadena Ser radio, adding that these remain to be determined.
Spain’s economy ministry released a statement later saying the package includes “the necessary conditionality for the financial sector” but requires new fiscal consolidation or structural reforms beyond those the government has already embarked on.
A European Commission spokesman, Amadeu Altafaj, told Spanish state television that this troika will have people on the ground overseeing the restructuring of the Spanish financial sector. Representatives of the same three groups regularly visit Greece, Ireland and Portugal to make sure the governments in those nations are complying with bailout terms,
Altafaj noted that the European Commission last month recommended Spain undertake further reforms such as speeding up the phasing of a higher retirement age — it is to go from 65 to 67 — and raise VAT sales tax. The newspaper El Pais quoted EU officials Monday as saying these changes and others are part of the conditions that come with the bank rescue package.
Adding to the gloomy mood on Monday, the Fitch Ratings agency downgraded the credit rating of Spain’s two largest international banks Banco Santander SA and Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria SA from A to BBB+.
The agency said the reasons for the downgrade were primarily because Spanish credit rating was downgraded to two notches above junk last week, because of a fresh forecast that Spain’s faltering economy will remain in recession into 2013 “compared to the previous expectation that the economy would benefit from a mild recovery in 2013.”
Banco Santander and BBVA are seen as immune from needing help from Spain’s bank bailout because profits from their international operations have buffered their Spain losses. But Fitch also said they could be affected by any downturn that affects operations outside Spain. Both are big players in Latin America.
“Growth prospects for emerging markets in which Santander and BBVA subsidiaries operate have been revised down and they are not entirely immune to global economic trends but earnings from these markets will continue to contribute significantly to group earnings at both institutions,” Fitch said in a statement.
• Harold Heckle and Alan Clendenning in Madrid contributed to this report.
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