Kathimerini reported that, according to unnamed bank officials, the bank recapitalisation may now need to be larger than the scheduled €27.5bn. The reason for this is twofold:
- First, the level of non-performing loans in Greek banks topped 24% of all loans at the end of 2012. This is a staggering amount. Keep in mind the Spanish banking sector, which has been the focus of so much uncertainty, still has non-performing loans equal to around 11% of all loans. Greece once again is in another league here.
- Secondly, as we warned at the time, the bond-buyback had a detrimental effect on the Greek banks. Even if they did not take substantial direct losses on the bonds they submitted, they have lost out in terms of future revenue (the interest from the bonds). This is reported to amount to around €1.5bn this year.
As FT Alphaville highlights, this seems a fairly clear-cut case of the negative trade off which we highlighted at length in the run up to buyback.
Needless to say, it is not make or break and the marginal effect of the buyback is still positive, albeit fairly small in the scheme of the Greek crisis. Fortunately, there is an additional €5bn set aside for such ‘unexpected’ increases in the bank bailout, so the additional cost should not disrupt the bailout programme.
We would note as a final point, that this may not be the end of the story (not just because the non-performing loans are likely to increase further) but also because we are yet to find out what impact the bond buyback had on the Greek banks’ ability to access liquidity (an issue we discussed in detail here). Again it may not be make or break, but we suspect it could be a further negative factor for Greece to deal with - something it hardly needs.