February 24, 2021

Ireland Seeks Easing of Its Debt Terms

Ireland, whose banking crisis required it to receive a bailout of €85 billion, or $110 billion, by international lenders in 2010, is pressing for the right to ease the payback terms of billions of euros of debt it incurred in that process. It is also pushing other European capitals to stick to a promise made last year that the euro zone’s bailout fund could eventually be used to prop up struggling banks directly, relieving governments of that burden.

Ireland’s proposals are likely to come up when European finance ministers begin two days of meetings in Brussels on Monday.

The issue is significant because it could have a decisive impact on the ability of a fragile Irish economy to emerge from the crisis, officials say. And within European politics, a new relief package would be significant because Ireland is the only bailed-out euro zone country so far that in hewing to the harsh austerity terms of its rescue has shown clear, if early, signs of an economic recovery.

Since 2008 the country has come up with spending cuts and tax increases totaling 18 percent of its gross domestic product. But unemployment remains high and households remain weighed down with debt, a legacy of the real estate crash that was the main cause of the banks’ troubles.

And yet, visiting Dublin on Thursday, the president of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, said that Ireland had “turned the corner,” proving that the international rescue programs put together by the euro zone and the International Monetary Fund “can work and that there is light at the end of the tunnel.”

Ireland is pressing an issue raised at a European Union summit meeting last June, when leaders promised that the euro zone’s bailout fund would eventually be able to lend directly to troubled banks, once a more centralized banking system was in place for the 17-nation euro zone.

At the time the deal was seen as significant because it could alleviate the debt burdens that bank bailouts had placed on the governments of Ireland and Spain, among others. But in subsequent months, the finance ministers of Germany, Finland and the Netherlands sought to dilute the agreement, arguing that it referred only to new bank rescues and not to so-called historic or legacy assets.

In addition to direct help for its banks, Ireland is also pressing for longer maturity dates on its international loans. Mr. Barroso, asked by reporters Thursday about Ireland’s proposals, said that the European Commission — the administrative arm of the Union — “has been arguing for rewards to those who are the good performers in terms of the programs.”

He cited Ireland and another bailed-out euro member, Portugal, as the members “we have a positive attitude toward.”

Under Ireland’s definition, its “dead banks,” which were crushed by the weight of bad debt incurred in the property and credit bubble, would not qualify. These include Irish Bank Resolution Corp., which took over Anglo Irish Bank, and the Irish Nationwide Building Society.

But banks that still operate but have been recapitalized by the state could receive help.

Michael Noonan, the Irish finance minister, said there was “a distinction being drawn between the word ‘legacy’ and the word ‘retrospective.”’

“If you have a dead bank there are legacy issues, and we are not negotiating for anything broadly to be done for Anglo Irish-I.B.R.C.,” Mr. Noonan said.

He said that about €28 billion was invested in banks that were still trading, and that this was debt his government would like the euro zone bailout fund, the European Stability Mechanism, to assume.

Though no direct recapitalization of banks from that fund is likely to take effect before the end of the year, a promise that Ireland could receive such help could bolster market confidence. That might aid Ireland’s effort to emerge from the bailout program and return to the bond markets fully next year.

Alan Barrett, head of the economic analysis division at Ireland’s Economic and Social Research Institute, said there were several factors that could derail the government’s plans. These include a lack of domestic economic demand, the weakness of vital export markets including the euro zone, and the appreciation of the euro against the currency of Ireland’s neighbor and key trading partner, Britain.

And while Ireland’s ratio of debt to gross domestic product has been forecast as peaking soon at around 120 percent and then begin to fall, Mr. Barrett estimated that there was still a 30 percent chance that this would not happen. “We are basically of the view that this is a fairly unstable situation,” he said.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/02/business/global/ireland-seeks-easing-of-its-debt-terms.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

DealBook: From Spain to Britain, Bank Earnings Slip in Europe

Three of the four major European banks that reported first-quarter earnings on Thursday performed weaker than had been expected as a result of recent market turmoil and the slow economic recovery in countries including Britain and Spain.

Lloyds Banking Group, the partially nationalized British bank, posted a net loss of £2.43 billion ($4 billion) for the period, the result of a £3.2 billion charge for potential compensation related to a court case involving insurance policies sold to bank customers. During the period a year earlier, Lloyds had posted a profit of £204 million.

Lloyds also blamed “continued economic and regulatory uncertainty” and said “sentiment and economic performance is being affected by concerns over austerity measures and cost inflation, and by global factors including instability in the Middle East and North Africa, and natural disasters such as in Japan and New Zealand.”

The bank said it had been focusing on further reducing its risky assets, and that it had delivered a “satisfactory trading performance” given the backdrop. Its core Tier 1 ratio, a measure of financial strength, stood at 10 percent, down from 10.2 percent in the fourth quarter.

The provision follows a British court decision last month that barred lenders from appealing a decision requiring them to compensate consumers for selling unnecessary loan insurance policies, which typically cover sickness or unemployment, and being told it was compulsory when it was not. Customers also were regularly not told the full details of the policies.

Other British banks like Barclays and Royal Bank of Scotland are also expected to make related payments, and the Financial Services Authority has estimated total claims at £4.5 billion.

At Lloyds, provisions related to the Irish economy, which is being supported by the International Monetary Fund and Dublin’s European partners, also contributed to the loss.

“Lloyds has not traditionally been able to benefit from the international diversification of some of its rivals and where it has, such as in Ireland, it has been forced to make further write-downs,” said Richard J. Hunter, head of British equities at Hargreaves Lansdown in London.

The British government holds 41 percent of Lloyds, acquired during the financial crisis. It also retains 84 percent of R.B.S. The government is not expected to sell any of its stakes until September at the earliest.

The scale of the provisions was unexpected and sent the company’s share price down 8.5 percent, to 53.09 pence. Other London-listed banks also suffered.

BBVA

One of the largest Spanish banks, BBVA, said its first-quarter net income dropped 7.3 percent, to 1.15 billion euros ($1.7 billion) as a weak business climate in Spain offset improvements in Mexico. Despite the profit decline, the lender said the first-quarter performance was its best in the last three quarters.

“The resilience of our earnings is based on an adequate diversification and on a successful business model,” said Ángel Cano, BBVA’s president and chief operating office. “Emerging markets will continue to play a growing role in the group’s earnings.”

The bank said bad loans, as a proportion of the bank’s overall lending, had dipped to 4.1 from 4.3 percent in the period a year earlier, adding that it was the fifth quarter in a row in which the nonperforming assets ratio remained in check.

An aggregate index of Spanish real estate prices, compiled by Barclays Capital, showed home prices down 0.8 percent in April from a month earlier, and 4.7 percent lower from the period a year earlier. That represented the sharpest pace of annual decrease since March 2010.

“We expect a further decline of potentially around 20 percent from here,” the Barclays analysts Julian Callow and Antonio Garcia Pascual said.

Société Générale

Société Générale, one of the largest banks in France, said its net profit for the quarter was 916 million euros, down almost 14 percent from the period a year earlier. It booked a charge of 239 million euros on its own debt and saw business disrupted with the political turmoil in the Arab world.

Own-debt charges have been common this earnings season as banks, which marked down their liabilities as their debt declined in value during the crisis, have had to mark that debt back up as their creditworthiness recovers.

The bank said net income at its international operations had fallen 61 percent, to 44 million euros, as performance was affected by “the economic consequences of the political transition situations experienced in Egypt, Tunisia” and Ivory Coast.

Independent of the protests that swept North Africa this year, Ivory Coast was riven by civil strife between the forces of former President Laurent Gbagbo, now ousted, and a newly elected government. Société Générale and other international banks closed their operations in the country in February.

Shares in BNP Paribas, another large French bank, rose 1.1 percent in Paris. On Wednesday it said its first-quarter net income rose to 2.62 billion euros, beating the estimate of analysts.

ING

ING, the Dutch financial services company bailed out during the crisis, was the one bright spot in the earnings reported on Thursday, posting profit of 1.38 billion euros for the quarter, up 12.3 percent from the period a year earlier.

The bank said it had drawn more deposits, lowered risk provisions, cut costs and kept a “healthy interest margin.” Its insurance benefited from higher fees, more sales and returns on its investments, it said.

The bank reiterated its intention to repay 2 billion euros of state aid next week, a transaction that will cost it 3 billion euros because of a 50 percent repurchase premium. ING is also preparing to split its banking and insurance businesses, which was a condition of receiving the government bailout.

“The restructuring of the group is on track,” Jan Hommen, chief executive of the bank, said in the statement. “We are laying the groundwork this year for two I.P.O.’s of our U.S. and European and Asian insurance businesses.”

Article source: http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2011/05/05/from-spain-to-u-k-bank-earnings-slip-in-europe/?partner=rss&emc=rss

Allied Irish Reports $15 Billion Annual Loss

A former stock market darling with international ambitions, Allied Irish Banks has been effectively nationalized and saved from collapse by a bailout from the European Central Bank after being shut out of debt markets and losing 22 billion euros in deposits last year.

There were further “slight” deposit outflows this year, mainly from overseas corporate funds, but recent stress tests that require the bank to raise 13.3 billion euros in capital and an overhaul of the sector had stopped that outflow. “The news of the bank’s recapitalization has been viewed positively by the market and we hope that that now represents a turning point and we can now rebuild the bank from here,” the executive chairman, David Hodgkinson, told the state broadcaster, RTE.

Much of the 13.3 billion euros is expected to come from state coffers although the bank is expected to generate some capital from buying back 2.6 billion euros in subordinated debt at a discount.

Dublin has pledged to shrink its banking system as part of a bailout by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund and Allied Irish Banks will be one of two so-called “pillar banks” left.

Allied Irish Banks is hoping that 2010 will mark the nadir in terms of group losses but has said that it is too early to call the peak. The monetary fund slashed its 2011 growth forecast for the Irish economy to 0.5 percent from 0.9 percent on Monday, underlining the challenge ahead.

Dublin has put a price of 70 billion euros on drawing a line under its banking crisis and Allied Irish Banks is second only to Anglo Irish in the burden it is putting on recession-weary taxpayers.

A charge of 6 billion euros, representing 5.25 percent of loans, against potential losses helped drive bank’s loss, a company record, and more than four times higher than the 2.3 billion euros shortfall generated in 2009.

Allied Irish Banks said the scale of losses going forward would be different and that it hoped to return to profit on an operating level in 2012 and possibly on a net basis too.

Analysts said the bank had taken a lot of pain up front.

“They are hoping that 2010 is the peak,” Oliver Gilvarry, head of research at Dolmen Securities, said.

”There is no sense in not coming out and putting as much forward as you can in 2010 numbers when everyone is expecting the numbers to be poor.”

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/12/business/13aib.html?partner=rss&emc=rss