ECONOMY

Lenders attempt to save loans

Bank customers experiencing financial difficulties due to the economic crisis forced Greek lenders to change the terms of credit on 20 billion euros’ worth of loans last year in a bid to save amounts from being written off. By extending the duration of the loan, cutting down monthly payments to interest only and providing refinancing solutions, banks helped provide customers with some relief. The change in loan terms also kept the amounts from being placed on the list of nonperforming loans (NPLs), where payments of interest and capital are at least 90 days late. A rise in NPLs weighs on a bank’s capital adequacy ratio and profit figures. Data from the Bank of Greece, the country’s central bank, shows that a growing number of customers can no longer repay the money owed, as rising jobless numbers result in a drop in household income. For the first nine months of the year, the total amount of NPLs rose to 7.2 percent from 6.8 percent for the same period a year earlier, central bank data shows. The number of bad loans in mortgages reached 6.9 percent, while 11.7 percent of consumer loans were placed on the NPL pile. Overdue business loans reached 6.4 percent of the total amount. Experts believe that the upward trend in NPLs has yet to peak but could do so toward the end of the year, with the NPL average for 2010 forecast to exceed 10 percent. This estimate, however, depends on the severity of the recession this year. Forecasts on the course of the economy for 2010 vary, as the economy is seen as contracting by between 2 to more than 4 percent, according to economists.