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SUMMER

What’s on in Spain: June 2018

Summer has officially arrived, and Spaniards are celebrating around the country with a month of fiestas, music and sport. From a wine battle in rural La Rioja to a music festival in a 15th century monastery, The Local has rounded up some of the highlights.

What's on in Spain: June 2018
In La Rioja an epic battle takes place in June. Photo: AFP

San Juan bonfires, June 23rd


Photo: AFP

The beginning of summer is celebrated around Spain from June 23rd with several nights of roaring fires, food and drink. Every region has its own San Juan traditions, but the biggest of these events takes place in Alicante, where people flock to the streets for a huge fiesta of music, dancing and fireworks.

Madrid Orgullo, June 28th-July 8th


Photo: AFP

The famous parade isn’t until July 8th, but Spain’s biggest gay pride event kicks off on June 28th, with a schedule of art and cultural events, sporting activities and open air concerts all taking place in and around the Chueca neighbourhood of Madrid.

Batalla del Vino, La Rioja June 29th


Photo: AFP

On the morning of June 29th, to celebrate the feast of San Pedro, participants gather in the town of Haro in La Rioja to soak each other with thousands of litres of wine, in a tradition that dates back to the sixth century when pilgrims to the region would indulge in a feast after mass with copious amounts of wine.

Granada International Festival of Music and Dance, June 22nd-July 8th

Dating back to the late 19th century, this historic event takes in performances in breathtaking venues from symphonic orchestras, ballet troupes and theatre companies in the Andalusian city of Granada.

UVA festival, Ronda, Andalusia June 8th-11th


Beautiful Ronda. Photo: sepavone/Depositphotos

This hidden gem of a house and disco festival in the picturesque city of Ronda takes place in Descalzos Viejos, a stunning converted fifteenth century monastery, and its capacity of just 500 people makes for an intimate and unique experience missing from more popular festivals.

Sónar, Barcelona, June 14th-16th


LCD Soundsystem are playing this year. Sonar. Photo: Sonar

Barcelona’s world renowned festival of cutting edge electronic music returns on June 14th, celebrating its 25th birthday with performances from some of the world’s leading forward-thinking artists. Headliners this year include Gorillaz, Richie Hawtin and Thom Yorke. Be sure too to look out for the legendary ‘Off-Sónar’parties that occur around the city every year to coincide with the festival.

Azkena Rock Festival, Basque Country. June 22nd-23rd

The annual two-day rock music festival in the Basque Country has consistently offered stellar line-ups, with this year’s roster including Van Morrison, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts and Mott the Hoople.

SPORT

 The “Quebrantahuesos”, Sabiñánigo in Aragon June 23rd

This year Sabiñánigoin northern Spain plays host to the Quebrantahuesos, a 205km bike race through the punishing mountain passages of the Pyrenees. The name translates to “bone breaker”, an appropriate description for the brutal conditions of Spain’s biggest Gran Fondo.

Catalan Motorcycle Grand Prix, Barcelona, June 15th-17th


Photo: AFP

Fans of MotoGP should head to Barcelona on June 15th, where the Gran Premi Monster Energy de Catalunya takes place at the revered Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya just north of the city.

List compiled by Rory Jones

READ ALSO:  Ten things that only happen in Spain when summer arrives 

MONEY

Rampant branch closures and job cuts help Spain’s banks post huge earnings

Spain’s biggest banks this week reported huge profits in 2021 and cheered their return to recovery post-Covid, but ruthless cost-cutting in the form of thousands of layoffs, hundreds of branch closures and the removal of many ATMs have left customers in Spain suffering, in this latest example of ‘Capitalismo 2.0’. 

A man withdraws cash from a Santander branch in Madrid.
More than 3,500 Santander workers lost their jobs in Spain in 2021 and a further 2,000 more employees working for Santander across Europe were also laid off. Photo: PHILIPPE DESMAZES / AFP

Spanish banking giant Santander on Wednesday said it has bounced back from the pandemic as it returned to profit last year, beating analyst expectations and exceeding its pre-COVID earnings.

Likewise, Spain’s second-largest bank BBVA said on Thursday that it saw a strong rebound in 2021 following the Covid crisis, tripling its net profits thanks to a recovery in business activity.

It’s a similar story for Unicaja (€137 million profit in 2021), Caixabank (€5.2 billion profit thanks to merge with Bankia), Sabadell (€530 million profit last year), Abanca (€323 million profit) and all of Spain’s other main banks.

This may be promising news for Spain’s banking sector, but their profits have come at a cost for many of their employees and customers. 

In 2021, 19,000 bank employees lost their jobs, almost all through state-approved ERE layoffs, meant for companies struggling financially.

BBVA employees protest against layoffs in May 2021 in Madrid. Spain’s second-largest bank BBVA is looking to shed 3,800 jobs, affecting 16 percent of its staff, in a move denounced by unions as “scandalous”. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)

Around 11 percent of bank branches in Spain have also been closed down in 2021 as part of Spanish banks’ attempts to cut costs, even though they’ve agreed to pay just under €5 billion in compensation.

Rampant branch closures have in turn resulted in 2,200 ATMs being removed since the Covid-19 pandemic began, even though the use of cajeros automáticos went up by 20 percent in 2021.

There are now 48,300 ATMs in Spain, levels not seen since 2001.

READ MORE:

Apart from losses caused by the coronavirus crisis, Spain’s financial institutions have justified the lay-offs, branch closures and ATM removals under the premise that there was already a shift to online banking taking place among customers. 

But the problem has been around for longer in a country with stark population differences between the cities and so-called ‘Empty Spain’, with rural communities and elderly people bearing the brunt of it. 

 

Caixabank laid off almost 6,500 workers in the first sixth months of 2021. Photo: ANDER GILLENEA/AFP

Just this month, a 78-year-old Valencian man has than collected 400,000+ signatures in an online petition calling for Spanish banks to offer face-to-face customer service that’s “humane” to elderly people, spurring the Bank of Spain and even Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez to publicly say they would address the problem.

READ MORE: ‘I’m old, not stupid’ – How one Spanish senior is demanding face-to-face bank service

It’s worth noting that between 2008 and 2019, Spain had the highest number of branch closures and bank job cuts in Europe, with 48 percent of its branches shuttered compared with a bloc-wide average of 31 percent.

Below is more detailed information on how Santander and BBVA, Spain’s two biggest banks, have reported their huge profits in 2021.

Santander

Driven by a strong performance in the United States and Britain, the bank booked a net profit of €8.1 billion in 2021, close to a 12-year high. 

It was a huge improvement from 2020 when the pandemic hit and the bank suffered a net loss of €8.7 billion after it was forced to write down the value of several of its branches, particularly in the UK. It was also higher than 2019, when the bank posted a net profit of €6.5 billion.

Analysts from FactSet were expecting profits of €7.9 billion. 

“Our 2021 results demonstrate once again the value of our scale and presence across both developed and developing markets, with attributable profit 25 per cent higher than pre-COVID levels in 2019,” said chief executive Ana Botin in a statement.

Net banking income, the equivalent to turnover, also increased, reaching €33.4 billion, compared to €31.9 billion in 2020. This dynamic was made possible by a strong increase in customer numbers, with the group now counting almost 153 million customers worldwide. 

“We have added five million new customers in the last 12 months alone,” said Botin.

Santander performed particularly well in Europe and North America, with profits doubling in constant euros compared to 2020. In the UK, where Santander has a strong presence, current profit even “quadrupled” over the same period to €1.6 billion.

Last year’s net loss was the first in Banco Santander’s history, after having to revise downwards the value of several of its subsidiaries, notably in the UK, because of COVID.

The banking giant, which cut nearly 3,500 jobs at the end of 2020, in September announced an interim shareholder payout of €1.7 billion for its 2021 results. “In the coming weeks, we will announce additional compensation linked to the 2021 results,” it said.

BBVA

The group, which mainly operates in Spain but also in Latin America, Mexico and Turkey, posted profits of €4.65 billion ($5.25 billion), up from €1.3 billion a year earlier.

The result, which followed a solid fourth quarter with profits of €1.34 billion, was higher than expected, with FactSet analysts expecting a figure of €4.32 billion .

Excluding non-recurring items, such as the outcome of a restructuring plan launched last year, it generated profits of 5.07 billion euros in what was the highest figure “in 10 years”, the bank said in a statement.

In 2020, the Spanish bank saw its net profit tumble 63 percent as a result of asset depreciation and provisions taken against an increase in bad loans due to the economic fallout of the virus crisis.

“The economic recovery over the past year has brought with it a marked upturn in banking activity, mainly in the loan portfolio,” the bank explained, pointing to a reduction of the provisions put in place because of Covid.

In 2021, BBVA added a “record” 8.7 million new customers, largely due to the growth of its online activities. It now has 81.7 million customers worldwide.

The group’s net interest margins also rose 6.1 percent year-on-year to €14.7 billion, said the bank, which is undergoing a cost-cutting drive.

So far, it has axed 2,935 jobs and closed down 480 branches as the banking sector undergoes increasing digitalisation and fewer and fewer transactions are carried out over the counter.

At the end of 2020, BBVA sold its US unit to PNC Financial Services for nearly 10 billion euros and decided to reinvest some of the funds in the Turkish market.

In November, it launched a bid to take full control of its Turkish lending subsidiary Garanti, offering €2.25 billion ($2.6 billion) to buy the 50.15 percent stake it does not yet own.

The deal should be finalised in the first quarter of 2022.

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