"We may also be available to make acquisitions, whether large or small," said Paulo Macedo, Caixa's CEO.
The chairman of Portugal’s Caixa Geral de Depósitos (CGD) bank said on Thursday that the state-owned bank is focused on returning capital to the state, but also said it may make acquisitions, whether large or small.
At the press conference of the 2022 results (profits of €843 million), Paulo Macedo was asked about possible mergers in banking in Portugal, especially when there is talk of Novo Banco coming on the market, which should move the sector.
According to Macedo, the focus of Caixa Geral de Depósitos (CGD) is to maintain solidity and return to the state the capital it has injected into the bank. “That is what we have been doing and we would like to intensify,” he said. Then, he said, the bank will look at possible purchases.
“Then we may also be available to make acquisitions, whether large or small,” he said. In any acquisition, he added, there has to be “the conviction that the result is superior, of concrete gains” and “feel that there is an advantage for Caixa, for the state.”
The manager said that CGD’s aim was to “maintain its leadership, substantially lower its risk, be profitable and continue to be the largest Portuguese bank.
Asked whether to do so it has to do an operation with Novo Banco, for CGD to remain leader, Macedo said that in CGD there is no obsession for leadership, “but it has value to be leader”.
“It makes no sense to be a public bank and have a share that does not allow you to intervene in the economy or influence, Caixa clearly influences commissions (by having cheaper), ‘spreads’ (by having cheaper), etc. etc.,” he said.
In January, in a hearing in parliament, Macedo said that with CGD strengthened, “it would not happen that a foreign bank would buy Banif and Banco Popular for a euro”.
CGD wants to hand over its headquarters building as a dividend to the state and is looking for another space to move into within a few years, the chairman said at the same press conference.
According to Paulo Macedo, for the delivery of this dividend, the property is being evaluated and then it is necessary to know if the “shareholder is interested in the asset. The aim is for the headquarters building to be handed over to the state this year.
The chairman explained that CGD will look for a new space of around 30,000 square metres in Greater Lisbon, and may have to build a new building or adapt an existing one (if it finds one that meets its needs).
The government has been moving several departments to the CGD headquarters building in Lisbon (in Campo Pequeno), with the agreement that CGD will also remain in the building until 2026.
For now, said Macedo, CGD is the landlord (collecting rent). When the building passes to the State, CGD will become a tenant (paying rent).
The aim is for CGD’s services to stay in the current building until 2026, but they may stay longer depending on the evolution of the future new building (according to Paulo Macedo, if a property is found and only renovation is needed it will probably be quicker than having to build a new one).
CGD today disclosed profits of €843 million in 2022, up 44.5% on 2021, and the payment of the “largest dividend in Caixa’s history”, of €352 million, to the sole shareholder (State).
According to the state-owned bank, with the payment of this dividend CGD now repays the state more than €2.5 billion.