Estudios económicos
Spain

Spain

Population 47.1 million
GDP 27,179 US$
A3
Country risk assessment
A1
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Synthesis

major macro economic indicators

  2019 2020 2021 2022 (f)
GDP growth (%) 2.0 -10.8 5.0 4.6
Inflation (yearly average, %) 0.8 -0.3 3.1 6.8
Budget balance (% GDP) -3.9 -10.3 -6.9 -5.1
Current account balance (% GDP) 2.1 0.8 0.9 0.4
Public debt (% GDP) 95.5 120.0 118.4 115.6

(e): Estimate (f): Forecast

STRENGTHS

  • Strong comparative advantage in renewable energy (solar, wind)
  • Important reforms (labour market, banking sector, bankruptcy law, etc.)
  • Increasing financial support from European institutions
  • Important private-sector deleveraging (pre-pandemic)
  • Manufacturing sector has shown reinvention capacity in recent times

WEAKNESSES

  • High private and public debt, highly negative international investment position
  • Dual labour market, high structural unemployment
  • Large quota of small, low-productivity companies
  • High exposure to pandemic-sensitive sectors
  • Fragmented and polarized political landscape, territorial unity threatened by the Catalan independence movement

RISK ASSESSMENT

Recovery momentum hampered by the war in Ukraine

Due to its dependence on the tourism sector (14% of GDP and 15% of employment), which recorded 63% fewer foreign visitors in 2021 compared to 2019, the economy was the most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in the Eurozone. At the end of 2021, GDP was still 4% below its pre-crisis level. In 2022, the catch-up process will be hampered by the consequences of the war in Ukraine. The surge in commodity prices, and notably in energy - of which prices are spreading particularly fast due to the large number of contracts with rates varying daily -, will bring inflation to its highest level in several decades, and will remain so throughout the year. Household consumption, which was still 6% below its pre-crisis level at the end of 2021, due to the only partial rebound of their disposable income during the recovery, will be strongly affected by the loss of purchasing power despite the measures taken by the government to limit its extent. Concomitantly, companies - whose activity was already hampered in 2021 by supply difficulties set to become more acute - will suffer from substantial cost increases, both in energy-intensive industries (chemicals, paper, metals) and in the important automotive (16% of goods exports), agri-food and transport sectors. Business investment is thus likely to be held back by both economic uncertainty and falling profits. Furthermore, despite limited trade with Russia - which accounted for 0.7% of exports and 1.7% of imports in 2021 - the Spanish economy will be exposed to the marked slowdown of its neighbours, since 62% of its exports are to the rest of the European Union (68% when including the United Kingdom). In this gloomy panorama, activity should nevertheless be sustained by the return of foreign tourists during the summer period, provided that the health situation does not deteriorate - a scenario that cannot be ruled out in view of the rise in
COVID-19 cases in some European countries at the beginning of spring. Moreover, the country is one of the main beneficiaries of European funds, with EUR 69.5 billion (6% of GDP) for the period 2021-2026, of which 40% will be disbursed in 2022.

 

Postponed consolidation of public accounts

The public accounts will remain largely in deficit in 2022, due to the implementation of measures to limit the impact of the rise in energy prices on households (reduction in fuel prices and taxes on the price of electricity) and the extension of certain measures introduced during the pandemic (partial activity, guaranteed loans). The bulk of the massive additional public investment will be financed by European funds (EUR 27.6 billion, or 2.2% of GDP). In a context of strong inflationary pressures, the ECB will probably stop its net asset purchases in the third quarter, and then start to raise its deposit rate before the end of the year. Therefore, the cost of financing the very high public debt could rise sharply, as in the rest of the region.

 

Since 2012, the country has consistently run a current account surplus, which narrowed sharply in 2020 because of falling tourism revenues. The large surplus in the balance of services (5% of GDP before the pandemic, 2% since) offsets the structural deficits in the balance of goods (largely due to the country's energy dependence) and in the balance of income (remittances from the Latin American and Moroccan diasporas to their countries of origin). Despite the hoped-for return of foreign tourists in the second half of the year, the current account surplus should shrink in 2022 under the weight of the energy bill. Despite a downward trend in recent years, the country's net foreign debt remains among the highest in the European Union (78% of GDP at the end of 2021).

 

The PP, the main opposition party, recovers - then stalls 

Since January 2020, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez of the Socialist Party (PSOE, 120 seats out of 350) has led a fragile coalition government, supported by Unidas Podemos (UP, far-left, 35 seats) and a host of smaller parties, including regionalist parties. While some signals, such as the approval of the 2022 budget, suggest that the coalition will hold until the next elections in November 2023, the second year in office has been fraught with tensions, notably over the labour market reform. On the eve of the pandemic, the political landscape was increasingly polarised and fragmented, with the historical duopoly of the PSOE and the centre-right Popular Party (PP) receding to the benefit of extremist (UP and Vox, far right) and regionalist parties. While the PP's victory in the regional elections of the Community of Madrid in May 2021 marked its return to strength, the party experienced an internal crisis in February 2022 that led to the resignation of its president, Pablo Casado. With a year and a half to go before the elections, the main opposition party has fallen back to second place in voting intentions, neck and neck with Vox, with 21% of the vote, compared to 27% for the PSOE. In this configuration, the PP would necessarily need to form a coalition with Vox to govern, similar to the one reached in the region of Castilla y León in March 2022. Although Pedro Sanchez has granted pardon to nine separatist leaders sentenced in 2019 for organising the referendum, the issue of Catalan independence remains relevant, as the current executive is still calling for a referendum on self-determination in the context of negotiations on the region's status.

 

Last updated: March 2022

Payment

Cheques are widely used for corporate transactions in Spain. They offer similar legal safeguards under the juicio cambiario (Civil Prodecures Code) in the event of default. The same is true of promissory notes (pagaré), which, like bills of exchange and cheques, are instruments enforceable by law. If unpaid, they are recorded in the registry of unpaid acceptances (RAI, Registro de Aceptationes Impagadas). Attached to the Centre for Interbank Cooperation, the RAI is the country’s most important registry. It records all commercial payment defaults of over €300, thus allowing banks and other deposit institutions to verify a company’s payment record before extending credit.

In contrast, bills of exchange are rarely used commercially. In the event of defaults, they offer creditors certain safeguards, including access to special collection proceedings with instruments for negotiation under the civil procedures code (juicio cambiario). Bills of exchange that have been guaranteed by a bank can be somewhat difficult to obtain, but they do limit the risk of payment default by offering creditors recourse to the endorser of the bill of exchange.

Electronic transfers via the SWIFT network, widely used by Spanish banks, are a fast, fairly reliable and cheap payment instrument, provided the purchaser orders payment in good faith. If the buyer fails to order a transfer, the legal recourse is to institute ordinary proceedings, based on the unpaid invoice. Banks in Spain have also been implementing SEPA standards for euro-denominated payments.

Debt collection

Unless there are special clauses included in the commercial contract, the applicable rate of interest is that applied by the European Central Bank in its most recent refinancing operation (performed prior to the first calendar day of the half year concerned), with an additional eight percentage points. The rate is published by the Finance Minister every six months, in the Boletín Oficial del Estado. The statute of limitations for ordinary claims is five years.

 

Amicable phase

There are no formalities or conditions for the dispatch of a reminder to the debtor, but it is advisable to send a claim to the debtor first. The creditor can obtain guarantees for the payment of the debt.

 

Legal proceedings

If no settlement agreement is reached with the customer, the creditor can initiate a legal collection process, using civil procedure law (ley de Enjuiciamento civil).

 

Exchange proceedings

Exchange proceedings are used for claims based on bills of exchange, promissory notes and cheques. A judge of the first instance (juzgado de primera instancia) verifies that the ‘exchange title’ has been correctly implemented and then orders the debtor to make payment of both the principal amount and the late interests and costs, within ten days. The judge will also order a seizure for security (embargo preventivo) on the debtor’s assets, equivalent to the outstanding amount. The debtor has ten days to dispute the ruling.

If there is no payment received or opposition within the prescribed time, the judge will order enforcement measures. If necessary, the judicial representative will carry out attachment. When claims are contested, a court hearing is held to examine both parties’ arguments and a judgement should be handed down within ten additional days. Although this is time frame that is prescribed under Spanish law, it is rarely adhered to by the courts.

 

Ordinary proceedings

In addition to the juicio cambiario, creditors unable to reach a payment settlement out of court can enforce their rights through a civil procedure (juicio declarativo). Civil procedures are divided into ordinary proceedings (juicio ordinario) for claims of over €6,000 and oral proceedings (juicio verbal) – a more simplified system – for smaller claims. Both proceedings are initiated with a lawsuit served on the debtor.

The claimant is required to explain the facts of his claim and provide all supporting documents – either originals, or copies that have been certified by a public notary – on filing its initial petition. Prior to the investigation of the case, the judge will summon the parties during a first hearing (audiencia previa), using ordinary proceedings, to encourage a conciliation. If this is unsuccessful, the lawsuit will be pursued. The court can then order specific measures to clarify issues or facts that remain unclear, before passing judgment.

 

Monitory proceedings (Juicio monitorio)

For monetary, liquid and overdue claims, whatever the outstanding amount (previously limited to up to €250,000), creditors can now benefit from a more flexible summary procedure. The filing of a petición inicial is directly submitted to the judge of first instance (juzgado de primera instancia) where the debtor is located. After reviewing the supporting documents, the judge can order the debtor to pay within 20 days.

If the debtor does not respond, the judicial representative will inform the judge and request confirmation of the decision in favour of the initial request. The judicial representative then hands down a ruling confirming the conclusion of monitory proceedings, which is transmitted to the creditor. This allows the creditor to contact the Enforcement Office for the next phase. If the debtor disputes the ruling and provides motivated arguments for this within a written statement signed by a barrister and a solicitor, a full trial on the case will be instigated.

 

Enforcement of a Legal Decision

When all appeal venues have been exhausted, domestic court decisions become enforceable. If the debtor fails to satisfy the judgment within 20 days, the Court Clerk, upon request, can seek out the debtor’s assets and seize them.

Decisions on foreign awards rendered by EU countries benefit from enforcement conditions, such as EU Payment orders and the European Enforcement Order. Judgements rendered by non-EU countries are recognised and enforced, provided that the issuing country is party to a bilateral or multilateral agreement with Spain. If no such agreement is in place, Spanish exequatur proceedings will be followed.

 

Insolvency Proceedings

Pre-insolvency proceedings

A debtor has the possibility of negotiating a formal refinancing agreement (acuerdo de refinanciacion formal) with his creditors. This agreement must be signed by the court. Within this agreement, the parties are free to write off as much of the debt as they deem necessary.

 

Bankruptcy proceedings

Bankruptcy proceedings are launched by filing a petition for an insolvency order. After examination of the petition, the judge makes an insolvency order. Creditors are expected to notify their claims within one month of publication of the insolvency order. The court appoints an insolvency manager, who examines the debtor’s financial situation and establishes a report on its debts. If there is no opposition to the report, the insolvency manager submits the final version to the judge. The judge subsequently orders the commencement of the arrangement phase with its repayment schedule, viability plan and alternative proposals for repayment.

During these proceedings, the debtor may file for liquidation:

  • upon petition of the debtor, at any time;
  • when the debtor is no longer able to make the scheduled payments or the obligations incurred, as defined in the arrangement;
  • upon petition of a creditor, for breach of the arrangement;
  • upon petition of the judicial administration, upon termination of professional or commercial activity.

The judicial administration draws up a liquidation plan in order to realise (sell) the assets, consisting of the bankruptcy estate, which is submitted to the judge for approval. 

 

Liquidation

Liquidation in Spain aims to sell the company’s assets. During this phase, the company retains its legal persona. Liquidators are appointed to execute the process and they can also take over the function of administrative body and company representative. The liquidator cannot redistribute the company’s assets among its associates until all of its creditors have been paid and payment demands against the company have been settled. Aggrieved creditors can contest transactions that they believe may have taken place illegally during the allocation of the assets.

Insolvency trend Spain
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