(Updates with comment from Popular)
MADRID May 11 Spain's struggling Banco Popular
denied on Thursday it was urgently seeking to be taken
over, after a Spanish news site reported it had hired JPMorgan
and Lazard to find a buyer.
Popular, which is still burdened with a large exposure to
Spain's property market nine years after a real estate collapse,
said in a statement that its strategy had not changed and that
it was exploring a series of options, including a possible
New Chairman Emilio Saracho, brought in earlier this year to
try and draw a line under the bank's troubles, had already said
in April that Popular may consider raising more capital or a
The bank said on Thursday that it was touch with various
advisors in this context. It did not name them.
Online newspaper El Confidencial earlier in the day reported
that Saracho mandated JPMorgan and Lazard last week to advise
Popular on a rapid sale.
It said the bank had reached out to rival Spanish lenders,
telling them it urgently needed funds - which Popular said it
Lazard and JP Morgan declined to comment.
"The bank's strategy ... has not changed, and the bank is
working on its development, which could include a potential
capital hike or a corporate deal," Popular said.
The lender is straining to clean up its balance sheet after
a property market collapse in 2008 which hit Spain's banks and
caused steep losses for many.
The financial sector has largely recovered but Popular still
has the biggest exposure to property assets among Spain's main
It has undergone three leadership shake-ups since last July
and reported a 3.6 billion euro ($3.9 bln) loss for 2016, its
Saracho was formerly at JPMorgan, and joined Popular in
February. The bank also hired a new chief executive in April,
The two have outlined plans to sell off non-strategic
assets, including Popular's Wizink credit card business, after
Popular raised 2.5 billion euros in a capital increase last
In the lender's first earnings under Saracho, Popular booked
a 137 million euro loss in the first quarter as it battled to
clean up 37 billion euros of toxic real estate assets.
Popular shares closed down 6.6 percent on Thursday after
surging 27 percent over the previous five days.
They have been the worst performers on the European STOXX
banking index in the last year, tumbling 57 percent.
($1 = 0.9209 euros)
(Reporting by Jesus Aguado, Carlos Ruano and Sarah White,
Writing by Sarah White; editing by Susan Thomas and Susan