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Spanish Lender Requests $24 Billion Bailout

A troubled Spanish lender has asked the government for 19 billion euros ($24 billion) of public money to keep the bank from collapsing.

As The New York Times reports, this is far beyond what the government was expecting when it took over Bankia and "its portfolio of delinquent real estate loans."

There are conflicting reports as to whether Spain has already agreed to hand over the bailout. The Wall Street Journal reports that the number "Bankia presented Friday have already been agreed with the government." The Financial Times reports the same thing, but El País, Spain's biggest paper, says at this moment it is a request, still pending approval from economy ministry and the Bank of Spain.

The New York Times reports:

"Bankia's announcement came as Standard & Poor's, the credit ratings agency, downgraded Bankia and two other banks, Banco Popular and Bankinter, to 'junk' status and lowered the ratings of two other Spanish banks also staggered by mounting bad loans. A junk rating could make it even harder for Bankia to borrow its way out of trouble.

"The rising fear now is that the recent steady trickle of deposits from Spain's banks, which are suffering from the bursting of Spain's real estate bubble, to institutions outside the country could eventually turn into the sort of bank run that almost brought the financial world to its knees after the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008."

Providing background, The Guardian reports that Bankia was partly nationalized two weeks ago, when the country provided a 4.5 billion-euro injection of cash. But the estimates of how much more money the bank, which holds 10 percent of Spanish deposits, needed to survive have "been spiralling at an alarming rate."

The big question here, the Times adds, is where this bailout will come from. Will Spain be able to afford it? Or will the European Union have to step in?

"Analysts increasingly see Spain's banks needing a bailout from the European Stability Mechanism," The Guardian reports. "French president François Hollande also believes that will be necessary, though the Spanish government continues to deny it."

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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