Banks ‘sufficiently capitalized’

As the European Central Bank (ECB) continues to pump liquidity into Greek lenders, European Commissioner for Competition Joaquin Almunia said yesterday that the country’s banks appear to be sufficiently capitalized. Responding to a question submitted by Greek MEP Rodi Kratsa-Tsagaropoulou in the European Parliament, Almunia said the recent 110-billion-euro rescue plan offered to Greece provides lenders with the opportunity to make use of a 10-billion-euro fund to boost liquidity, should it be needed. Banks have not used a large part of a previous 28-billion-euro bank scheme the Greek government offered its lenders, added Almunia, according to a statement issued by Kratsa-Tsagaropoulou. Greece’s banks have borrowed about 89.4 billion euros in so-called repurchase agreements with the ECB, according to ratings agency Moody’s. The lenders turned to the ECB for cash after the global financial crisis that peaked in 2008 and this year’s sovereign fiscal debacle curbed their access to wholesale funding and bond markets. The country’s banks have also been hurt by the loss of some 7 percent of their deposits, totaling an estimated 21 billion euros, Moody’s data show. «Changes to the funding profile of Greek banks have widened maturity mismatches,» Cyprus-based Moody’s analysts Constantinos Kypreos and Mardig Haladjian wrote in the report. «The high reliance on ECB funding is neither desirable nor sustainable long-term.» Deposits fell due to a combination of customers’ «tax considerations» and their investing in Greek government bonds as well as a corporate tax levied in January, the analysts wrote. Clients also siphoned funds into Greek banks’ foreign units, they wrote. The outflows, while slowing, «remain an issue, given the fragility of depositor sentiment,» according to the report. Under a repurchase agreement, money is lent against collateral, which the borrower promises to buy back at a given time.