Greek central banker defends stress test results: paper

ATHENS Sat Mar 22, 2014 4:32pm EDT

Central bank chief George Provopoulos takes part in the annual shareholders meeting of Bank of Greece in Athens February 25, 2013. REUTERS/John Kolesidis

Central bank chief George Provopoulos takes part in the annual shareholders meeting of Bank of Greece in Athens February 25, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/John Kolesidis

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ATHENS (Reuters) - An "unduly conservative" approach in stress tests on Greece's major banks would have scared off investors, the head of Greece's central bank said on Saturday, adding that he believed the results would be close to EU-wide tests due later this year.

The banks' capital needs were a sticking point in the latest bailout review by Greece's lenders, which ended this week after six months of wrangling.

The EU and IMF, which had estimated that the banks' needs would be higher, said in a statement that there were "upside risks" to the Greek estimates and urged the banks to address the high level of non-performing loans.

But in an interview to be published in Sunday's Kathimerini newspaper, George Provopoulos was quoted as saying: "If were unduly conservative and imposed an overcapitalization of the banks, we would run two serious risks.

"First, we would shake the trust of depositors, who would say, rightly, that for the banks to need a new big capital boost, they must be weak.

"The second danger would be that private investors who placed money in the capital increases of banks as part of last summer's recapitalization would lose any confidence in the country and its banking system."

Greece's four big lenders - National Bank (NBGr.AT), Piraeus Bank (BOPr.AT), Eurobank (EURBr.AT) and Alpha Bank (ACBr.AT) -were recapitalized last year to the tune of 28 billion euros ($38.6 billion).

This month's Bank of Greece health check, intended to establish whether they had enough capital to withstand rising bad loans, a further economic slump and other shocks, found that they needed to raise an extra 6.4 billion euros.

Greece's bank rescue fund, the HFSF, which recapitalized the banks last summer, has a remaining buffer of about 8 billion to 9 billion euros to address any additional needs.

The European Central Bank is due to carry out its own EU-wide health check later this year, and Provopoulos said he believed the results would be "close to ours". ($1 = 0.7256 Euros)

(Reporting by Karolina Tagaris; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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