BBVA, Banco Santander and Bankia financed the largest manufacturer of explosives in Spain

Report published originally in Catalan language in CRÍTIC (


BBVA, Banco Santander, Bankia, Barclays and HSBC -and 11 national and international banks- have granted a loan of 450 million euros in the largest manufacturer of explosives in Spain, MaxamCorp Holding. In Catalonia, the old Spanish Union of Explosives is the owner of the store dynamite at Anoia and a nitric acid plant to produce explosives in Tarragona. One of its subsidiaries, Expal (Explosivos Alaveses SA) supplied military equipment to armies around the world, including Turkey and Israel, and made landmines.

Despite the questions asked for Crític media, Maxam has refused to make public the names of the 16 banks that have participated, but has announced the coordinators of the operation, which were BBVA, Banco Santander, Bankia, Barclays and HSBC. According to what the company told the newspaper Expansion, the operation has been carried out thanks to improved credit conditions that banks provide. Maxam also said in a statement released last summer that these banks “reinforce their commitment and trust in the company.” This is the highest credit Maxam has received in recent years. But in 2013 the company had already received a syndicated loan of 280 million euros led by banks BBVA, Banesto, HSBC and Barclays Bank.

Financial institutions and companies linked to the military industry have been increasingly for years their complicity that has been criticized for campaigns and movements for peace and human rights, such as the catalan Centre Delàs Justice, Setem or FundiPau, who considers that the fact that some banks finance industries devoted to armaments is a way to promote the growth of the latter.

Maxam in Catalonia nitric acid and dynamite

In Catalonia, Maxam also operates. In Tarragona, the manufacturer of explosives was bought in summer 2013 Nitricomax SL, a company dedicated to the production of nitric acid. It is a basic raw material for the manufacture of explosive products marketed after Maxam. The plant, which has a production capacity of 39,000 tonnes of nitric acid, is located in an industrial area of La Canonja, near the port of Tarragona.

Meanwhile, Maxam also has a large store of dynamite to Heather (Anoia), with capacity for more than 200,000 pounds of explosives and a smaller one in Torres de Segre (Segrià). Direct media explains in an article that the plant is installed in a few hundred meters from a residential area and only 1,000 meters of a football field. Being an installation of explosives “high risk” according to the external emergency plan in the chemical sector of Catalonia, the opacity surrounding the store of dynamite plant “has generated a growing uneasiness” between the residents of the territory, which have begun to mobilize to demand more information about the plant.

Involvement with the Ministry of Defence

Maxam -through its subsidiary Expal- military, along with Santa Barbara Sistemas, are two of the most prominent providers of Spanish Ministry of Defense. Between the Ministry and the company Maxam have occurred in recent years with the aim of promoting synergies military cooperation agreements with other countries in the field of defense industry. Examples of this have been some joint travel in countries such as Turkey, Russia and Kazakhstan between Defense Minister Pedro Morenés, the then King Juan Carlos I and Maxam managers. In the summer of 2013, as reported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministers of Defense of Spain and Kazakhstan, attended the meeting of representatives of Maxam, signed a strategic partnership agreement between the two countries “to bring bilateral relations in defense”. Also they signed another agreement on the transit of military equipment and personnel through the territory of Kazakhstan on the occasion of Spain’s participation “in international efforts for the stabilization and reconstruction of Afghanistan.”

The arms trade

Maxam group of Spanish origin but now owned transnational, has managed to avoid the effects of the economic crisis reaching to the top world regarding the manufacture and export of weapons. The company closed 2013 with a turnover of 1,100 million euros, an operation impossible to achieve without strengthening its internationalization, which represents 90% of their income.

One of its subsidiaries is more controversial and dangerous Explosivos Alaveses SA (Expal), which is dedicated entirely to the manufacture of explosives for military forces to provide them. According to the Centre for Peace Studies Delàs, Expal supplied weapons to the armies of Turkey and Israel, “countries that maintain a strong repression of human rights of the population in the territory of Kurdistan and Palestine”; Furthermore, according to research conducted by the center, Expal mines are also present in the lands of Colombia and the Western Sahara, and in the war between Iraq and Iran in 1984, he was open an investigation by the United Nations “after discovering that Iraq used chemical weapons (mustard gas) in housings manufactured by Expal”.

The hottest EXPAL internationalization is the risk that uses this expansion, according to the Center Delàs time ago warned in a report, to sign contracts with foreign companies that have not ratified treaties on disarmament. For example, Expal signed contracts, among others, Brazilian companies also engaged in weapons or as Imbel Emgepron. According to the researcher Pedro Ortega on the Delàs Centre, this “transnational arms Spanish have a formula to avoid the advances that civil society was reaching disarmament” industries across states “the less scrupulous peace and respect for human rights”.

The “double standards” of EXPAL: landmines

Another recent controversy around his work is EXPAL deactivating landmines and cluster bombs, some of which the company had made. As explained in an article in The tide in summer 2013 Expal was chosen by the European Union for the task of destroying over 3.3 million mines in Belarusian territory. Expal receive 3.9 million. Previously, the Spanish Army was awarded several contracts for Expal destroying 5,600 cluster bombs that were the Spanish military stores, many of which had been manufactured by the same company. Until the ban by the Treaties of Ottawa and Oslo, the main EXPAL focused on the manufacture and implementation of these explosives. On this question, the researcher Pedro Ortega speaks Center Delàs now “double standards”, because while Expal previously dedicated to the manufacture of mines, destroying the works now.

Relations between banks and army

During pas years since now, the linking between banks and arms industry has been increasingly. BBVA and Banco Santander have been reported in recent years to participate, and give credit to finance arms companies. Until 2011, Banco Santander had a 23% share of Maxam through the capital risk firm Vista Capital, until the company was sold to also capital risk firm American Advent International, one of the most powerful in the world. Now owned by Maxam is divided between capital risk funds, with 45%, and the figure of the president of Maxam, José Fernando Sánchez-Junco, along with more than 160 executives, 55% of the capital. Therefore, while Banco Santander undid 23% of the shares of Maxam 2011, the commitment to fund these arms companies follow through loans, including transfer operations.
Banco Sabadell, from 2007 until now is the Catalan bank more money invested in companies that manufacture weapons. In Spain and Catalonia there are campaigns like “Banco Santander without weapons” or “BBVA without weapons”, along with NGOs and associations working to investigate and report the relationship between the military industry and financial institutions.