Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Will Itallian banks provide ultra transparency to avoid a banking crisis

The Telegraph's Ambrose Evans-Pritchard looked at how the turmoil in Greece has increased the chances for an Italian banking crisis.

Hans Redeker from Morgan Stanley said the EU's mishandling of Greece has put Italy in grave danger. "The irrevocability of the eurozone is a valuable asset, and they are throwing it away. Global investors are preparing for the day Greece leaves," he said. 
The IMF said Italian bank exposure to the state is 32pc of GDP, including all forms of lending. "We are looking at this number very closely," said Mr Redeker. 
Almost half of this is owed to foreigners. Italy's central bank owes a further €278bn in 'Target2' claims to peers in Germany, Holland, Finland and Luxembourg, reflecting capital flight.
This reflects the on-going run on the Italian banks previously discussed on this blog.
Italy's former premier Romano Prodi said the EU risks instant contagion to Spain, Italy, and France if Greece leaves. "The whole house of cards will come down", he said 
Angelo Drusiani from Banca Albertini said the only way to avert catstrophe is to convert the European Central Bank into a lender of last resort. Otherwise Italy faces "massive devaluation, three to five years of hyperinflation, and unbearable unemployment." 
The ECB's emergency lending may have made matters worse, encouraging banks to buy their own states' debt. It has led to an incestous inter-linkange of fragile banking systems and fragile sovereign states, each propping the other up. Many of the banks used ECB money to buy state bonds until they need to roll over their own debt. They are now nursing stiff losses. 
Moody's downgraded 26 Italian lenders on Monday night saying the slump itself is the killer, joining a chorus of voices warning that too much austerity may be self-defeating. "Banks are vulnerable to the renewed recession in Italy, given their already elevated levels of problem loans and weakened profitability," it said. Moody's expects the economy to contract 1.9pc this year. 
The Italian Banking Association ABI accused Moody's of an "irresponsible, incomprehensible, and unjustifiable" smear. "Moody's decision is an attack on Italy, its companies, its families and its citizens," it said, calling on the EU authorities to clamp down "severely" on rating agencies. 
The agency said the "problem loans" of Italian banks have reached 9.3pc. The figure may be higher, given "concerns about the accuracy of reported non-performing loan measures." 
They depend on capital markets for 36pc of their funds. This source of finance has largely dried up.
If the Italian banks want to stop the deposit run and reopen the capital markets, they will have to provide ultra transparency and disclose on an on-going basis their current asset, liability and off-balance sheet exposure details.

With this information, concerns about the accuracy of reported non-performing loan measures disappears and market participants can independently assess the risk of each bank.

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