European banks have amassed €30 trillion in liabilities and face a serious funding threat over the next two years as authorities withdraw emergency support, according to a new report by Standard & Poor's.
By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, International Business Editor
Published: 6:00AM BST 29 Jul 2010
The rating agency said banks are at risk of a vicious circle as sovereign debt fears and financial stress feed off each other. "Banking sector woes are eroding sovereign credit-worthiness, which is in turn reducing the real and perceived capacity of governments to support weak banks," said S&P.
"The collective funding needs of
S&P said the European Central Bank's emergency lending had inadvertently created a snare. Its three-month loans have had the effect of concentrating roll-over risk for large amounts of debt. Banks will eventually have to refund these loans in a crowded market, competing with debt-hungry states. "ECB loans have contributed to a shortening of liability maturities. The result is a growing funding mismatch for the European banking industry. This is happening as regulators prepare to introduce tougher liquidity standards. This is one of the greatest vulnerabilities of the industry," it said.
S&P said Greek banks have seen a leakage of €10bn to €20bn in customer deposits since the crisis began, or 5pc to 10pc of the total. They are shut out of the capital markets. The ECB is propping up the country with €140bn of exposure to Greek debt in one form or another. It has €126bn of exposure to
The EU's €750bn "shock and awe" rescue has gained time but not conjured away underlying concerns about the fiscal health of the EU states themselves. The report came as the ECB's latest bank survey showed that credit conditions had tightened sharply in the second quarter, with a net 11pc of lenders restricting loans. The survey was carried out in late June, after the €750bn rescue but before the stress tests for banks.
"What it shows is that the sovereign debt crisis had a measurable effect on lending," said Silvio Peruzzu from RBS, adding that rebound will lose steam if the banks are unable to boost lending as companies exhaust their cash buffers and start to borrow again. "There is a risk of a double-dip in 2011."