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Caixabank to challenge Spanish windfall tax as objections mount

A man uses a Caixabank ATM in Barcelona

By Jesús Aguado

MADRID (Reuters) -Spain's Caixabank will legally challenge a Spanish windfall tax, Chief Executive Officer Gonzalo Gortazar told a financial event in Madrid on Tuesday as another lender, Sabadell, said it had filed an appeal.

Caixabank joins other lenders and utilities in objecting to the temporary levies on banks and energy companies approved by Spain in December, intended to raise 6 billion euros ($6.39 billion) by 2024 to fund measures to ease the cost of living.

"We are going to appeal...we have the obligation towards all our 600,000 shareholders that if there is something that does not comply with certain legal principles, we will appeal on their behalf," Gortazar told an event on Tuesday.

Caixabank, which is the country's biggest bank by domestic assets, has long argued that the tax is confiscatory, discriminatory and distorts market competition.

In November, the ECB also warned of adverse effects.

Gortazar earlier told Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore the bank would press ahead with the appeal even though the Spanish state is its second-largest shareholder with a 17.3% stake.

The tax imposes a 4.8% charge on banks' net interest income and net commissions above a threshold of 800 million euros.

A source with knowledge of the matter said that Caixabank would lodge an appeal before Spain's High Court challenging the ministerial order of the levy and also move to legally reclaim the tax from the tax authorities.

Caixabank has said that the levy would cost 400 million euros ($426.80 million) in 2023 and more in 2024.

On Tuesday, Sabadell's chairman Josep Oliu told a different event that the tax was unfair and that is "why we have appealed the tax properly".

Kutxabank and Bankinter have also challenged the tax, while mid-sized lender Abanca is still studying legal options. The two big Spanish banks, Santander and BBVA, have said they will consider appealing.

($1 = 0.9372 euros)

(Reporting by Charlie Devereux and Jesús Aguado, additional reporting by Cristina Carlevaro; Editing by Aislinn Laing, Louise Heavens and Christina Fincher)