The only thing left was the process of registering the new company in the Mercantile Registry and yesterday it was formalized. Officially, Unicaja Banco can now present itself as the fifth most important entity in Spain after absorbing Liberbank. The big numbers are already known: assets of almost 113,000 million euros and 4.5 million customers. With a presence in 80% of the national territory and a dominant position in at least six autonomous communities.
But the challenge now is remarkable. And those responsible for the entity must translate into the future unified business the synergies that experts have anticipated that this absorption will facilitate: 192 million annually, especially from 2023 with a capital that would be the highest among the financial companies that are listed on the country. But the group that will operate from its headquarters in Malaga starts from very different positions. Worth the numbers that have been presented separately at the end of the first half of 2021.

Unicaja obtained profits of 70 millionof euros. Liberbank recorded losses of 68 million. For the Andalusian institution chaired by Manuel Azuaga, the evolution of this financial year denotes “enormous strength to tackle the expected economic recovery and the integration of Liberbank”. And, technically, this requirement will be decisive in the coming years when dealing with operational integration to function as a single brand: Unicaja.

There are 6,200 employees and about a thousand branches provided by the bankthat was born thirty years ago from the merger of five Andalusian savings banks and 3,700 workers and almost 6,000 branches, which adds up to the group that was formed with Cajastur, Banco CMM and the savings banks of Cantabria and Extremadura. The different starting territorial distribution will prevent overlaps from being lavished. But the banks are also facing an extensive digitalization process and the previous concentrations have affected, above all, the windows of direct attention to the public. In this sense, until now Azuaga has always been very cautious.
After the General Meeting of Shareholders approved the absorption, it already indicated that the measures that may reach the bank’s staff for this reason will be analyzed “rigorously and seriously”and with the greatest possible agreement between parties. The new CEO of Unicaja, Manuel Melendez, who maintains the position he already held at Liberbank, did not want to be left behind, indicating that the employees will be “essential actors” in this process. But, yes, he has also warned that the efforts “have not finished.”

The failed attempt in 2018

Unicaja’s three decades of history are lavish in merger operations. But this last one has gone back and forth. Because in 2018 the first contacts began. The talks did not crystallizeand the rupture was announced in 2019. Without a doubt, the current pandemic made it easier for the process to resume in October 2020 until reaching the goal. Last week the central government granted the administrative authorization, last Monday the signature was formalized before a notary and, finally, the brand already appears in the Mercantile Registry.
Unicaja will be governed by a board of directors made up of 15 people.The aforementioned Manuel Azuaga will be its executive president for the next two years. The financier has always described this operation as “historic” and has been sure that it will allow a “better perception” of investors and will serve as support “for the country’s economic recovery.” But at the same time he has defended that this fifth most important bank in SpainIt must improve profitability and improve the personal offer without losing its foundational value, such as its proximity to the client. And although he plays in the national division of financial entities, he also considers it compatible to achieve that relevance without losing the ties and his historical connection with the province and the community that has seen him born and grow. And he recalled the institution’s ability to face and overcome the crises that have occurred since 2011, first due to the economic recession and then due to the coronavirus. A hymn to prudence as a management model that the Malaga bank boasts.

The new council is commanded by Azuagaand with Melendez as CEO. Both with executive functions during the next two years, the expected transition process. Afterwards, the commitment will be to choose a new dome. But the word will have that council with 40% of independents and a third of women, as marked by the recommendations of the Code of Good Governance of Listed Companies. Nine of the 15 representatives will be on behalf of the former Unicaja Banco and the Unicaja Foundation, the majority shareholder of the group.
Now there is a capital increase to crystallize the exchange ratewhich was established in the common merger project approved last December. The current shareholders of Unicaja Banco will have 59.5% of the capital, and those from Liberbank, 40.5%. In the operation, the shareholders of the latter entity will receive newly issued ordinary titles from the former, in the proportion of 1 Unicaja Banco share for every 2.7705 Liberbank shares. Andalusia, Extremadura, Castilla y Leon, Castilla-La Mancha, Cantabria and Asturias are the communities in which Unicaja starts with an advantage. Right now its number of clients is higher in those regions than its main competitor registers.

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