MADRID - Foreign funds will be the buyers of debt-strapped Spanish businesses putting up for sale signs in 2010, many for the symbolic price of 1 euro, the director of a niche investment bank said.
As the world starts to emerge from the global economic crisis, Spain is still hovering behind, with deep unemployment and heavy public debt shouldered by the country's banks. This means there is no money to finance businesses, or their sale.
Spain is up for sale and there's not enough money in the country to buy everything that's being sold, Enrique Quemada, chief executive of ONEtoONE Capital Partners told Reuters in an interview.
Who can buy it all? Now is the time to call in German, Dutch, Arabic and Chinese funds, he added.
ONEtoONE, founded in pre-crisis 2004 to fill a gap for middle-market Spanish deals that were being turned down by major investment banks, is now setting up shop in London and New York to showcase thousands of small and medium enterprises.
Spain, along with its Mediterranean neighbors, has the largest number of SMEs in Europe. Even among its about 120 stock market-listed companies, 17 have a market capitalization of under 100 million euros ($143.9 million), according to ThomsonReuters data.
Many business owners have already made small personal fortunes but are struggling to repay corporate debt. They are ready to sell out to investors with fresh capital and the new insight to salvage what in many cases has been a life-long business, Quemada said.
This year, for example, family-owned Spanish penmaker Inoxcrom, with 43 million euros of revenues, was sold to businessman Alberto Novel for 1 euro -- less than the cost of one of its fountain pens -- to off load debt and prevent a filing for administration.
The advantage is that the company comes with its debt. The investor can take a majority stake and when it starts to create value in three years time, pay for the remainder. Nothing is paid now because you're taking a load off the guy's back, Quemada said.
Some 4,300 Spanish companies had filed for administration as of September 30 this year, according to Spain's National Statistics Institute, including listed companies like textile maker Dogi (DGI.MC).
Quemada said 10,000 bankruptcies are expected in 2010, with businesses related to the property, consumer and tourist industries the hardest hit after a decade-long boom.
ONEtoONE is currently advising 115 deals for clients ranging from family-owned businesses to private equity firms and large publicly-listed companies.
(Additional reporting by Tomas Gonzalez; Editing by xxx)