ECONOMY

Bad loans climbed higher at end-2009

The index of nonperforming loans (NPLs) saw significant deterioration at the end of 2009, while the prospects for this year are also negative. Converging estimates by bank officials forecast an acceleration in the growth rate of NPLs in 2010, with bad loans reaching a share of as high as 15 percent. Banks are preparing for a significant boost in problems in the first half of the year and a gradual decline in the second. This means that a further 12 billion euros’ worth of loans are expected to be in the red, testing the profits and the stamina of local lenders. What worries banks in particular is the significant rise in NPLs after relative easing in the third quarter of 2009. Their index climbed by 20 percent in the first quarter last year, from the previous quarter, by 13.3 percent in the second and by 5 percent in the third. Yet this trend reversed in the October-December 2009 period, with bad loans growing by 25 percent compared with the July-September period. Bank of Greece (BoG) data showed that in the first nine months of last year, bad loans came to a total share of 7.2 percent, up from 6.8 percent at end-June. Bad loans in housing credit came to 6.9 percent against 5.3 percent in December 2008, while NPLs in corporate credit amounted to 6.4 percent and in consumer credit to 11.7 percent. In the fourth quarter there was a rise in bad loans across the board. BoG has indicated its concern about the growth in the number of bad loans by asking banks to make even greater provisions to cover their nonperforming loans.