Eurobank has moved ahead of Greek peers in the drive to cut bad loan volumes after completing a deal with Italian debt recovery firm doValue, and is now focused on boosting lending, its chief executive told Reuters on Tuesday.
Greek banks have been making headway in their bid to sell, write off or restructure billions of euros of soured loans accumulated during the last financial crisis.
The high level of non-performing exposures (NPEs) - about 40% of their loanbooks in March - constrains their ability to finance the country’s economic recovery.
Fokion Karavias said Eurobank’s NPE ratio at 15.6% with 60% coverage “stands out in the Greek market”. The ratio stood at 31.1% in September last year, while those of close peers National Bank and Alpha Bank were at 30.9% and 30% respectively.
“We are now able to zero in on financing the real economy,” he said. “We have already expanded our loan book to businesses by more than 1.0 billion euros ($1.1 billion) in 2020. We expect a total increase of above 2.0 billion for the full year.”
Last week Eurobank concluded the sale of an 80% stake in its loan servicing unit FPS to doValue, along with a chunk of mezzanine and junior notes of a 7.5 billion NPE securitisation dubbed project Cairo.
With the deal, Verona-based doValue boosted its loans portfolio in Greece to 28 billion euros.
The CEO expects Greece’s economy to grow above expectations in 2021, covering most or even all of the ground lost in the current year when the central bank, under its baseline scenario, sees it contracting by around 6%.
“Greece’s participation, for the first time, in the European Central Bank’s enhanced quantitative easing programme and upcoming EU support makes me optimistic,” Karavias said.