UniCredit "feels no pressure" to repay ECB loans

MILAN Fri Jan 18, 2013 8:52am EST

MILAN (Reuters) - The chief executive of UniCredit (CRDI.MI), Italy's biggest bank by assets, said on Friday he felt under "no pressure" to reimburse early the cheap funds it borrowed from the European Central Bank at the height of the euro zone debt crisis.

Federico Ghizzoni told reporters the bank had a very good liquidity position and would decide whether to repay the loans, which can be returned in part or entirely in weekly installments from January 30, on a case-by-case basis.

"I feel no pressure either way," he said on the sidelines of a conference.

"From January 30 it's possible to reimburse every week, so technically there is no need to do something on January 30," Ghizzoni said.

Analysts and industry sources have said UniCredit, which borrowed 26 billion euros ($34.7 billion) in three-year loans under the ECB's longer-term refinancing operation (LTRO) in December 2011 and February 2012, is thinking about an early reimbursement along with other European banks.

Some 200 billion euros or more is expected to be paid back by the banks in the next few months, bankers and analysts estimate, out of 1 trillion euros doled out last year to ease a funding crisis.

Italian borrowing costs have tumbled since the ECB pledged in September to buy the bonds of struggling euro zone states if they ask for aid, and UniCredit - like other Italian banks - has repeatedly tapped the market for funding.

However, Italy faces a general election on February 24-25, raising the prospect of political instability.

($1=0.7486 euros)

(Reporting By Andrea Mandala; Writing by Silvia Aloisi; Editing by Greg Mahlich)

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