The magistrate of the Court of First Instance 43 of Madrid has dismissed the lawsuits filed by the mercantile companies Inversión Corporativa, Ardachón and Finarpisa, headed by the Benjumea family and other Abengoa shareholders, against Banco Santander and HSBC. The plaintiffs demanded from financial institutions compensation of 1,000 million euros for a capital increase operation that never saw the light. The ruling is not final and can be appealed to the Provincial Court of Madrid.
The sentence, dated February 11, was known this Tuesday, just the day after the Andalusian company requested the bankruptcy after failing the negotiations for its third rescue. The Madrid court ruling refers to a capital increase operation that the Andalusian group announced at the beginning of August 2015, when it was already in a critical situation. The amount of the transaction amounted to 650 million euros and the firm entered into negotiations with Banco Santander and HSBC to ensure the expansion.
The plaintiffs have alleged that the financial entities promised to guarantee the expansion in the assurance letter, in which a “tentative” schedule of the operation was determined, which provided for the disbursement to be concluded on October 1. They add that they agreed that the underwriting contract be signed on September 14, 2015, but that the same day the banks informed Abengoa that in order to continue with the operation it was an “indispensable and inexcusable condition” that the company’s executive president, Felipe Benjumea, will leave his position to improve the image of the company. Already then Abengoa was mired in a deep credibility crisis due to doubts about its financial situation.
Finally, on September 14 no letter was signed and the capital increase did not see the light of day. The plaintiffs have defended that the commitment of the entities was firm, and that their change of position gave the image that the company was managed in an irregular way, caused price drops, generated a loss of market confidence and postponed the capital increase. Which led the group to collapse and file the bankruptcy shortly thereafter, in November 2015.
Santander and HSBC, for their part, have rejected the plaintiffs’ version. Both entities have defended that they were not obliged to proceed with the operation, since the agreement was not closed, since certain conditions of the insurance contract had not been fulfilled and the situation in which the firm was found was not that described in the lawsuit. They added that there was already mistrust on the part of the markets and that the firm was already dragging a major crisis since the end of the previous year.
The ruling emphasizes the statute of limitations. The court concluded that “there was no contractual relationship between the plaintiffs and the banks, nor was there any negotiation in order to sign the letter of assurance for the capital increase.” For this reason, the magistrate points out that the statute of limitations is reduced to one year, and that the plaintiffs presented their claim – in March 2018 – when this period was already exhausted.