Tag Archives: Italian banks

Many European Banks Would Collapse Without Regulators’ Help: Fitch, by Don Quijones

It’s worrisome when regulatory forebearance is the only thing keeping some banks afloat. From Don Quijones at wolfstreet.com:

Dozens of Greek, Italian, Spanish and even German lenders have volumes of troubled assets higher or similar to that of Spain’s fallen lender Banco Popular. They, too, are at risk of insolvency. This stark observation came from Bridget Gandy, director of financial institutions for Fitch Ratings, who spoke at a conference in London on Thursday.

The troubled banks include:

  • Greece’s HB, Piraeus, NBG, Eurobank and Alpha;
  • Italy’s Monte dei Pachi di Siena (which is in the process of being rescued with state funds), Carige (9th largest bank, now under ECB orders to raise capital or else), CreVal, and the two collapsed banks, Veneto and Vicenza (whose senior bondholders were bailed out last weekend);
  • Germany’s Bremer Landesbank (which just cancel interest payments on its CoCo bonds) and shipping lender HSH Nordbank.
  • Spain’s Liberbank and majority state-owned BMN and Bankia, which are completing a merger after private-sector institutions refused to buy BMN. Now, the problems on BMN’s balance sheet belong to Bankia, which already has its own set of issues, Gandy said.

That many of Europe’s banks are teetering on the brink of insolvency is not exactly new news. Most of the problems that caused the financial crisis have not been resolved. As the financial journalist and former investment banker Nomi Prins said in a 2015 interview with Dutch media group VPRO, “in Europe there still exist massive amounts of trades (on banks’ balance sheets) that are underwater and going wrong every day.”

According to a chart presented by Gandy, most of the banks she cited (in particular the Greek and Italian ones) have total unprovisioned non-performing assets that clearly exceed their total level of capital. In other words, if the losses on those assets crystallized, the banks would run out of funds.

To continue reading: Many European Banks Would Collapse Without Regulators’ Help: Fitch

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Contagion from the 2 Friday-Night Bank Collapses in Italy? by Don Quijones

The Italian banking crisis may kick off a global, or at least a European, banking crisis. From Don Quijones at wolfstreet.com:

This is how desperate the Italian Banking Crisis has become.

When things get serious in the EU, laws get bent and loopholes get exploited. That is what is happening right now in Italy, where the banking crisis has reached tipping point. The ECB, together with the Italian government, have just this weekend to resolve Banca Popolare di Vicenza and Veneto Banca, two zombie banks that the ECB, on Friday night, ordered to be liquidated.

Unlike Monte dei Pachi di Siena, they will not be bailed out primarily with public funds. Senior bondholders and depositors will be protected while shareholders and subordinate bondholders will lose their shirts. However, as the German daily Welt points out, subordinate bondholders at Monte dei Pachi di Siena had billions of euros at stake, much of it owned by its own retail customers who’d been sold these bonds instead of savings products such as CDs. So for political reasons, they were bailed out.

Junior bonds play a smaller role at the two Veneto-based banks. According to the Welt, the two banks combined have €1.33 billion (at face value) in junior bonds outstanding. They last traded between 1 cent and 3 cents on the euro. So worthless. Only about €100 million were sold to their own customers, not enough to cause a political ruckus in Italy. So they will be crushed.

The good assets and the liabilities, such as the deposits, will be transferred to a competing bank. According to a rescue plan apparently drawn up by investment bank Rothschild that surfaced a few days ago, Intesa Sao Paolo, Italy’s second largest bank, would get these good assets and the deposits (liabilities), for the token sum of €1, while all the toxic assets (non-performing loans) would be shuffled off to a state-owned “bad bank” – and thus, the taxpayer. According to the Italian daily Il Sole 24 Ore, the bad bank would be left holding over €20 billion of festering assets.

To continue reading: Contagion from the 2 Friday-Night Bank Collapses in Italy?

Two Italian Zombie Banks Toppled Friday Night, by Wolf Richter

Earlier this month it was a Spanish bank, which was purchased by another Spanish bank for one euro. Last Friday last rites were said for two Italian banks that were so sick nobody wanted them at any price. From Wolf Richter at wolfstreet.com:

ECB shuts down Veneto Banca and Banca Popolare di Vicenza.

When banks fail and regulators decide to liquidate them, it happens on Friday evening so that there is a weekend to clean up the mess. And this is what happened in Italy – with two banks!

It’s over for the two banks that have been prominent zombies in the Italian banking crisis: Veneto Banca and Banca Popolare di Vicenza, in northeastern Italy.

The banks have combined assets of €60 billion, a good part of which are toxic and no one wanted to touch them. They already received a bailout but more would have been required, and given the uncertainty and the messiness of their books, nothing was forthcoming, and the ECB which regulates them lost its patience.

In a tersely worded statement, the ECB’s office of Banking Supervision ordered the banks to be wound up because they “were failing or likely to fail as the two banks repeatedly breached supervisory capital requirements.”

“Failing or likely to fail” is the key phrase that banking supervisors use for banks that “should be put in resolution or wound up under normal insolvency proceedings,” the statement said. This is the first Italian bank liquidation under Europe’s new Single Resolution Mechanism Regulation. The ECB explained:

The ECB had given the banks time to present capital plans, but the banks had been unable to offer credible solutions going forward.

Consequently, the ECB deemed that both banks were failing or likely to fail and duly informed the Single Resolution Board (SRB), which concluded that the conditions for a resolution action in relation to the two banks had not been met. The banks will be wound up under Italian insolvency procedures.

To continue reading: Two Italian Zombie Banks Toppled Friday Night

ECB Tapering May Trigger “Disorderly Restructuring” of Italian Debt, Return to National Currency, by Don Quijones

An Italian banking system collapse still in one of the favorites for the catalyst that kicks of the next global debt crisis. From Don Quijones at wolfstreet.com:

The only other option: “Orderly restructuring.”

Here’s the staggering scale of the Italian government’s dependence on the ECB’s bond purchases, according to a new report by Astellon Capital: Since 2008, 88% of government debt net issuance has been acquired by the ECB and Italian Banks. At current government debt net issuance rates and announced QE levels, the ECB will have been responsible for financing 100% of Italy’s deficits from 2014 to 2019.

But now there’s a snag.

Last month, the size of the balance sheet of the ECB surpassed that of any other central bank: At €4.17 trillion, the ECB’s assets have soared to 38.8% of Eurozone GDP. The ECB has already reduced the rate of purchases to €60 billion a month. And it plans to further withdraw from the super-expansionary monetary policy. To do this, according to Der Spiegel, it wants to spread more optimistic messages about the economic situation and gradually reduce borrowing.

Frantically sowing the seeds of optimism on Wednesday was Bruegel’s Francesco Papadia, formerly director general for market operations at the ECB. “On the economic front, things are moving in the right direction,” he told Bloomberg. The ECB will begin sending clear messages in the Fall that it will soon begin tapering QE, Papadia forecast. By the halfway point of 2018 the ECB would have completed tapering and it would then use the second half of the year to move away from negative interest rates.

So far, most current ECB members have shown scant enthusiasm for withdrawing the punch bowl. The reason most frequently cited for not tapering more just yet is their lingering concern about the long-term sustainability of the Eurozone’s recent economic turnaround.

To continue reading: ECB Tapering May Trigger “Disorderly Restructuring” of Italian Debt, Return to National Currency

 

In Bleak Prognosis, Italy’s Financial Regulator Threatens EU with Return to a “National Currency”, by Don Quijones

The Italian financial system just keeps getting worse. It will blow up. From Don Quijones at wolfstreet.com:

Nerves are fraying in the corridors of power of the Eurozone’s third largest economy, Italy. It’s in the grip of a full-blown banking meltdown that has the potential to rip asunder the tenuous threads keeping the European project together.

In his annual speech to the financial market, Giuseppe Vegas, the president of stock-market regulator CONSOB — a consummate insider — delivered a bleak prognosis. The ECB’s quantitative easing program has “reduced the pressure on countries, such as ours, which more than others needed to recover ground on competitiveness, stability and convergence.”

But it hasn’t worked, he said. Despite trillions of euros worth of QE, Italy has continued to suffer a 30% loss in competitiveness compared to Germany during the last two decades. And now Italy must begin to prepare itself for the biggest nightmare of all: the gradual tightening of the ECB’s monetary policy.

“Inflation is gradually returning to the area of the 2% target, while in the United States a monetary tightening is taking place,” Vegas said. The German government is exerting mounting pressure on the ECB to begin tapering QE before elections in September.

So, too, is the Netherlands whose parliament today treated ECB President Mario Draghi to a rare grilling. The MPs ended the session by presenting Draghi with a departing gift of a solar-powered tulip, to remind him of the country’s infamous mid-17th century asset price bubble and financial crisis.

For the moment Draghi and his ECB cohorts refuse to yield, but with the ECB’s balance sheet just hitting 38.7% of Eurozone GDP, 15 percentage points higher than the Fed’s, they may ultimately have little choice in the matter. As Vegas points out, for Italy (and countries like it), that will mean having to face a whole new situation, “in which it will no longer be possible to count on the external support of monetary leverage.”

To continue reading: In Bleak Prognosis, Italy’s Financial Regulator Threatens EU with Return to a “National Currency”

Is Italy’s Banking Problem Becoming Too Big to Solve? by Don Quijones

Don Quijones pretty much answers his own question in the affirmative. From Quijones at wolfstreet.com:

They said it was contained, but now it hit the largest bank.

Ever since the European Commission and ECB jointly decided that Italy’s government could bend EU banking rules out of all recognition in order to bail out the country’s third largest bank, Monte dei Paschi di Siena, Europe’s financial stocks have been on a tear. But the good times were brought to a grinding halt Monday after Italy’s largest bank, Unicredit, which employs 55,000 people in 17 countries, announced losses for 2016 of €11.8 billion.

By the bank’s logic, it would have announced profits if it hadn’t had to write off €12.2 billion, including billions of euros of non-performing loans (NPLs) festering on its balance sheets.

But it got worse. In the registration document for its pending recapitalization, published on its website today, Unicredit also announced that its capital ratios at the end of 2016 might fall short of ECB requirements. It was enough to prompt a 5.45% slide in its shares. As detected in the ECB’s latest stress test, Unicredit already had the slimmest capital buffer of all Europe’s Global Systemically Important Banks (G-SIBs). And it just got slimmer.

The reality today is not comforting: a bank that is officially too big to fail, with over €1 trillion of “assets” on its books, just admitted that things are even worse than initially feared. Somehow, Unicredit will need to raise €13 billion in new capital by the end of June. If successful, it would be the biggest capital expansion of Italian stock market history.

Earlier this month, the bank has pushed through a 10:1 reverse stock split, cutting its shares outstanding by a factor of 10 and multiplying the share price by 10. So its shares today plunged 5.45% to €26.20 instead of to, say, €2.62. It makes the shares look more palatable, but it does absolutely nothing to bank’s market capitalization, which is down to just €16.2 billion.

To continue reading: Is Italy’s Banking Problem Becoming Too Big to Solve?

 

Who Exactly Benefits from Italy’s Ballooning Bank Bailout? by Don Quijones

Heads, large banks win; tails, taxpayers lose—the game is the same in Italy as it is everywhere else. From Don Quijones at wolfstreet.com:

All these events conform to a well established script.

Italy’s third largest bank, Monte dei Paschi di Siena, is not insolvent, according to the ECB; it just has “serious liquidity issues.” It’s a line that has already been heard a thousand times, in countless tongues, since some of the world’s largest banks became the world’s biggest public welfare recipients.

In order to address its “liquidity” issues, Monte dei Paschi (MPS) is about to receive a bailout. The Italian Treasury has said it may have to put up around €6.6 billion of taxpayer funds (current or future) to salvage the lender, including €2 billion to compensate around 40,000 retail bond holders.

The rest will come from the forced conversion of the bank’s subordinated bonds into shares. According to the ECB, the total amount needed could reach €8.8 billion, 75% more than the balance sheet shortfall originally estimated by MPS and its thwarted (but nonetheless handsomely rewarded) private-sector rescuers, JP Morgan Chase and Mediobanca.

All these events conform to a well established script. The moment the “competent” authorities (in this case, the ECB and the European Commission) agree that public funds will be needed to prop up an ostensibly private financial institution that is not too big to fail but nonetheless cannot be allowed to fail, the bailout costs inevitably soar.

And this is just the beginning. According to Italy’s Finance Minister Pier Carlo Padoan, the Italian government has already authorized a €20-billion fund to support Italy’s crumbling banking sector, with up to eight regional banks lining up for state handouts. In addition, MPS plans to issue €15 billion of new debt to “restore liquidity” and “boost investor confidence,” as several Italian newspapers reported on today. That debt will be guaranteed by the government and its hapless taxpayers.

To continue reading: Who Exactly Benefits from Italy’s Ballooning Bank Bailout?