ECONOMY

State support key for lenders

The health of the local credit system relies on the support being offered to commercial banks by the state through privileged shares, which allowed most major lenders to pass the European Central Bank’s stress test last week. The capital surplus of 3.3 billion euros that National Bank, Eurobank, Alpha, Piraeus, ATEbank and Hellenic Postbank enjoy corresponds to the privileged shares that the state has acquired. In total, the country’s six biggest banks have issued privileged shares that add up to 3.5 billion euros; without them ATEbank would have finished the stress tests without any funds at all, Piraeus would have failed it and the own capital index of National, Eurobank and Alpha would have been under 7 percent. Hellenic Postbank would have seen its capital adequacy index marginally over 7 percent. The question now for banks is how rapidly conditions will revert to normal so that they can proceed to share capital increases to buy back the privileged shares, as they are supposed to. Already Piraeus has agreed with three foreign firms to draw funds of 1.1 billion euros, either through a share capital increase or via special bond issuing, or a combination of the two, in order to be able to fund its proposal to buy out Hellenic Postbank and ATEbank as well as the state’s privileged shares.