Banks make loan terms friendlier

Banks have renegotiated loans with businesses and households worth more than 70 billion euros, or some 25 percent of the total credit extended in Greece, this year. Bank officials admit that much of their time has been taken up in offering loan holders more favorable terms in repaying their debts as the crisis bites into the real economy. Rolling over debts and extending the time period on credit lines are among some of the techniques being used to help ease the debt burden of households and businesses. Some analysts predict that refinanced loans actually reach 40 percent of total outstanding debt, totaling some 100 billion euros. Among the first to be offered more favorable terms are the self-employed and businesses. According to bank officials, some 52 billion euros of business loans, amounting to 35 percent of credit in this category, have been refinanced. Bank of Greece data show that, at the end of August, businesses held 129 billion euros of credit with another 13.7 billion going to the self-employed and sole traders. Lenders are being called upon to spot the business owners who genuinely want to save their businesses. «The difficulty is in differentiating between those businesses that can save themselves and recover from the crisis and those that have huge problems and basically have no future,» said a senior banking official. Despite the agressive tactics adopted by lenders to safeguard their loan portfolios, nonperforming loans (NPLs) are rising. According to Bank of Greece data, NPLs rose to 8.2 percent of total debt at the end of March, from 7.7 percent at the end of 2009. The figure is expected to reach 9 percent in June ahead of another expected jump to 10 percent at the end of this year, according to bank sources.

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