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SUMMER

Ten brilliantly fun things to do in Spain this July

With summer in full swing, Spain's events calendar is jam-packed with everything from beachside music festivals to bull runs through city streets. Take a look at The Local’s pick of unmissable events in Spain this July:

Ten brilliantly fun things to do in Spain this July
The procession of 'Big Heads' is one of the highlights of Pamplona's San Fermin fiesta in July. Photo: AFP

Madrid Pride, June 28th-July 7th


Photo: AFP

Europe’s biggest Pride celebration this year marks 40 years since the city’s first authorised LGBT demonstration. More than two million people are expected to take to the streets of the capital for the climactic parade, while other highlights include the Mr. Gay Pride Spain final, the famed stiletto race and a performance from The Weather Girls.

READ ALSO: The ultimate guide to Madrid Pride 2018

San Fermín Bull Running Festival, July 7th-14th


Photo: Ville Miettinen/Flickr

At Pamplona’s annual week-long party that was immortalised in Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises,  every day begins with a herd of bulls hurtling through the narrow streets after hundreds of red and white clad daredevils. After a goring or two, there are concerts, bullfights and much drinking until the early hours. 

READ ALSO: How to survive running with the bulls in Pamplona 

PHotoEspaña, June 6th-August 26th


Photo: PHotoEspaña

Madrid’s PHotoEspaña celebrates its 20th anniversary with a diverse range of exhibitions – highlights include the Magnum showcase ‘Players’, a retrospective of lensman to the stars Cecil Beaton and Spanish film legend Pedro Almodóvar’s first photographic effort.

IN PICS: The 10 best exhibitions at PHotoEspaña 2018

Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Madrid, July 5th-8th


Photo: mbfwmadrid.ifema.es

The cream of Spanish design takes to the international stage from July 5th-8th in this showcase which brings some of the biggest names in fashion to Madrid.

Moors and Christians Festival, July 24th-31st


Photo: Heather Ramsden/Flickr

These festivals commemorating the conflicts between Moors and Christians during the Reconquista are held all over Spain, but one of the best takes place in Villajoyosa, where Moors and Christians is the most important event of the year. Expect reenactments, concerts, dances and firework displays.

MadBeach, July 1st-August 31st


Photo: MadBeach/Madrid City Hall

With temperatures in the capital already hitting highs of 37C, Madrid’s first artificial beach couldn’t come at a better time. MadBeach will open on the Plaza de Colón on July 1st and will host beach bars, hammocks, volleyball courts and a wave pool.

READ MORE: Madrid creates urban beach in the heart of the city

Music festivals

Cordoba Guitar Festival, July 4th-14th


Photo: guitarracordoba.es

As well as performances from skilled musicians from around the world, Cordoba Guitar Festival offers classes and workshops that teach various playing styles such as classical, flamenco and medieval.

Bilbao BBK Live, July 12th-14th

Gorillaz, Florence and the Machine and Childish Gambino headline the ever-popular Basque Country festival. Meanwhile ‘festival-within-a-festival’ Basoa takes place in the forest, with underground dance music heroes Optimo and Hunee leading the party.

Benicassim, July 19th-22nd


Photo: AFP

Sun, sea and great music abound on the Costa del Azahar at one of Spain’s biggest summer music festivals. The Killers, Pet Shop Boys and Liam Gallagher headline the main stage.

READ ALSO: The eight best music festivals in Spain this summer

Sport

Windsurfing World Championship of Sotavento, July 26th-August 4th


Photo: pwaworldtour.com

Some of the world’s most skilled windsurfers gather at Sotavento beach on Fuertaventura for ten days of competition in an area infamous for its harsh winds.

READ ALSO: 15 books to read in Spain this summer

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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