BUSINESS

German banks OK rollover plan

Germany?s biggest banks agreed on a proposal to roll over Greek debt holdings, the country?s Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said on Thursday.

The agreement, which follows a French plan reached last weekend, comes in time for eurozone finance ministers discuss the aid program at a meeting in Brussels on Sunday.

Speaking to reporters alongside Deutsche Bank?s chief executive, Josef Ackermann, in Berlin, Schaeuble said German banks hold some 10 billion euros in Greek government bonds but about 55 percent of them aren?t due to mature until after 2020.

The smaller portion due by 2014, around 2 billion euros, would be the focus of this agreement, he said.

Schaeuble said the agreement, based on a similar proposal put forward in France, would help eurozone finance ministers determine the broad outlines of a new aid package for Greece.

Ackermann, at a conference in Berlin on Wednesday with Chancellor Angela Merkel, predicted that financial companies would contribute to help avert a ?meltdown.?

German and French lenders are the biggest foreign holders of Greek debt and their participation would help the European Union meet a goal of getting banks to roll over at least 30 billion euros of bonds.

The Belgian government is also seeking a commitment from the nation?s biggest banks and insurers on the amount of Greek debt they can roll over, Belgian National Bank Governor Luc Coene said on Thursday.

The talks, led by the Finance Ministry in Brussels, aim for an agreement in principle on the rollover amount, with the exact terms of the accord to be fixed in the next few days, Coene said. The country?s three biggest financial institutions are involved in the talks, he said.

Dexia is Belgium?s biggest owner of Greek government bonds, with holdings of 4.27 billion euros at the end of last year, according to its 2010 annual report. Ageas, the majority owner of Belgium?s biggest life insurer, reported Greek sovereign debt holdings of 1.83 billion euros at the end of March and KBC Groep NV said it held 600 million euros of Greek government bonds as of March 31.

Online