Why we don't let accountants coin words

A parable of Spanish banking and mutilation of the English language.

The front of a CAM branch in Madrid in July 2011. Photograph: Getty Images

FT Alphaville's David Keohane has a fun little spot about what actually happens when you buy a broken bank.

Banco CAM was a savings bank in Spain which failed with the burst of Spain's property bubble. By September last year, it had lost €1.7bn and over a fifth of its loans were bad. As a result, it was sold for one euro to Banco Sabadell, a Catalonian bank, in December.

But Sabadell has an agreement from the Spanish government which covers 80 per cent of their losses for up to 10 years. Add to that the transfer of €2.4bn of bank deposit guarantees, and Sabadell has come out €3.5bn ahead from their purchase.

In most mergers, there's an expectation that, when you add up all the assets of the company being sold, they will come up to less than the price paid. It's known as "goodwill", and is assumed to represent things like a customer base, intellectual properties, brand image, and so on. Even for companies which aren't much loved, "goodwill" can still be rather valuable.

Banco CAM was, it appears, sold for €3.5bn less than its assets. So how do its new owners account for that in their results?

"Badwill". Makes sense, when you think about it.