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The ECB Demands Higher Provisions For Doubtful Debts From 2018

10 October 2017 – Cinco Días

The ECB has proposed a tightening of the provisions required by banks for any loans that they classify as doubtful from 1 January onwards. The ECB has subjected the draft legislation, currently posted on the body’s website, to public consultation. The standards that the supervisor is preparing complement those published in March of this year. In this way, banks will have to set aside more money from 2018 onwards to cover 100% of the loans that they reclassify, in other words, those that go from being standard to doubtful. The ECB will establish different terms depending on the type of loan: those that are secured by a real estate asset may be provisioned at 100% over seven years from the date of their reclassification. For loans without any type of guarantee, entities will have just two years to constitute the 100% provision.

The provisions will be applied on a linear basis from the date of recognition of the doubtful debt until the date the coverage ratio equals 100%, but national supervisors may require the recognition of provisions more quickly in certain cases. Moreover, loans that are partially covered by real estate assets must be provisions in two parts and with two doubtful rates.

In March, the ECB published a handbook for doubtful loans to be applied to portfolios of doubtful loans already in existence. It demanded that entities undertake procedures to reduce this load that, in its opinion, is restricting banks’ ability to grant new loans. The handbook is not binding, but banks will either have to “comply or explain”. In other words, they will have to comply with the handbook or explain why they are not complying with it. It also requires that they set specific objectives to reduce their existing portfolios.

Based on the response from entities and the evolution of doubtful balances, the supervisor will present new proposals,at the end of the first quarter of 2018, to attack the excess volume of toxic loans in the banking sector. According to the supervisor, the so-called “significant entities” (almost all of the banking system in Spain and 130 in total in Europe) held €865,000 million in doubtful assets during the first quarter (after that balance decreased by almost €100,000 million in one year). “Many entities have made significant progress and have submitted credible strategies that include reduction plans, but others still have a way to go to improve”, said the ECB.

In March, doubtful loans accounted for 47.05% of the total bank loan book in Greece, 17.75% in Ireland, 19.82% in Portugal and Italy. Based on this criteria, the figure for Spain amounted to 5.86%, but its level of foreclosed assets was very high.

Original story: Cinco Días (by Nuño Rodrigo Palacios)

Translation: Carmel Drake

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