ECONOMY

Fitch: Lenders can meet finance needs

Greece’s largest banks, including National and Alpha, will not have trouble raising funds this year amid slower loan growth, according to Fitch Ratings. «The funding needs appear to be relatively low considering that loan growth will be much lower than what we have seen in the past,» Fitch director Cristina Torella told Bloomberg. «Essentially, they will have to meet the refinancing needs, which appear to be manageable in 2010. Greek banks will manage that situation in the short term.» Alpha Bank, Greece’s third-largest lender, said earlier this month that it has «insignificant wholesale funding redemptions» of 1 billion euros. EFG Eurobank, the country’s second-biggest bank, needs to raise 898 million euros this year, it said earlier this month. The economic crisis in Greece has resulted in higher funding costs for Greek banks and has prompted them to borrow money from the European Central Bank rather than on the wholesale market. «The outlook for Greek banks is negative, highlighting the tougher operating environment and the pressure this is exerting on asset quality and profitability,» Torella said. «But if they prove able to manage that and also to rebalance their liquidity and funding profiles, the outlook could be revised.» Fitch lowered the credit ratings on Greece’s four largest banks in February, saying that the country’s economic crisis may lead to higher credit costs and lower underlying profitability.