French banks pass stress test, Tier 1 avg 9.3 pct

PARIS, July 23 Fri Jul 23, 2010 12:00pm EDT

PARIS, July 23 (Reuters) - France's top four banks passed the European banking stress test with an average Tier 1 ratio of 9.3 percent in 2011 under a worst-case scenario, compared with 9.9 percent at the end of 2009, the Bank of France said on Friday.

Banks needed a Tier I ratio of at least 6 percent to pass the test, which assumed a double-dip recession as well as write-downs on sovereign debt held in trading books.

The banks tested were BNP Paribas (BNPP.PA), Societe Generale (SOGN.PA), Credit Agricole (CAGR.PA) and BPCE, the parent of investment bank Natixis (CNAT.PA).

Bank of France governor and European Central Bank Governing Council member Christian Noyer said the outcome was "satisfying, not a surprise and totally comfortable". The European tests were "heavier and more ambitious" than similar U.S. tests, he added.

The four French banks have total sovereign debt exposure to 30 European countries of 42.9 billion euros ($55.2 billion) in their trading books. ($1=.7766 Euro) (Reporting by Marcel Michelson and Jean-Baptiste Vey; Editing by James Regan)