August 6, 2020

Santander demands that the fund that wants to buy its headquarters in the Financial City be investigated | Economy



The Santander does not give for lost the battle to buy, without having to increase its offer another 51 million, its own operational headquarters, the Financial City located in Boadilla, Madrid. And threatens to demand 750 million euros if certain controls on their rivals are not met to verify that they meet the standard against money laundering.

The site that the bank wants to recover is in the hands of Marme, the fund to which it was sold in 2008 after agreeing to stay 40 years of rent. Marme has been in bankruptcy proceedings since 2014 and now the bankruptcy administrator is liquidating the company. On January 14, the judge ruled on the three offers that were on the table. The largest was that of brothers Simon and David Reuben, investors of Indian origin and settled in London, through Sorlinda. They offered 3,023 million. The purchase supposes to remain the patrimony, the box and also the debts.

Santander himself had made an offer to recover these lands, a huge space where is its operational headquarters and a real mini-city for employees of the entity, with cafes and all kinds of services. His offer was 51.5 million lower. The judge declared the Reuben bid to be the winner.

Right of first refusal

The bank assured that would appeal the decision. Actually, it has a simple way of winning the bid: it has the right of first refusal, that is, if it equals the best offer it will be the buyer. But he does not want to spend 51 million more, because he considers that his competitor has made the offer without the controls required by the original sales contract he signed with Marme.

In the event that Santander was forced to raise its bid, Sorlinda would be unable to buy the Financial City, but rebound would get some benefit for a sale at a higher price, since the Reuben bought Marme debt in the market secondary with discount and, if in the liquidation of the society you get more money, you could make more profitable your investment.

According to a document accessed by EL PAÍS, sent to the insolvency administrator, Lexaudit, and also registered in the court, Santander considers that accepting this offer without verifications has incurred in an illegality and warns that, if it persists, they could arrive to stop paying the rent (of about 120 million a year) and demand 750 million. The bank says that it had already warned by letter in October that the liquidation was not fulfilling its demands.

Specifically, Santander recalls that on September 12, 2008, when Marme bought the Financial City, a lease was signed because the bank was staying for rent. In that contract, clause 17.4, of "unsuitable buyers" was included, which was qualified as essential. Marme undertook "not to transmit the Financial City to any person or entity that does not comply with the requirements of ethics and compliance with national and international legality that are considered customary in international traffic; to diligently carry out actions to verify compliance with regulations on the prevention of money laundering and to verify the identity and reputation of the potential buyer (including also its shareholders holding significant holdings, members of the board of directors, CEOs) and other people of similar status in the organization); and to transfer to Santander the result of such verifications (…) at least one month before formalizing the sale ".

The insolvency administration, according to the bank's criticism in its writing, has ignored it. And he goes on to the warnings: if the lease is not strictly complied with, he says he has the right to stop paying the rent, claim compensation of 750 million and exercise the right of withdrawal, that is, recover his seat.

Santander confirmed that it has sent that document to the court, but declined to comment.

An alleged network of companies in tax havens

Santander requires insolvency administrators to review whether Sorlinda, the fund that has made the best offer for its headquarters, complies with the rules on money laundering and reputation. And so that they know where to look, in the letter sent also to the judge, highlights some details that has been collected "in public records." For example, he assures that Sorlinda is "an instrumental company" created seven months ago and bought by the British Ibiza Property. According to the British Commercial Registry, he adds, Ibiza Property is in losses and with a negative equity of more than 3.1 million. And the owner of that firm is Stamford Group, based in the Virgin Islands. The final owners or their accounts are opaque. He adds that the Reuben brothers' signatures, which are supposed to give "financial support" to the offer, are based in Bermuda.

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