UPDATE 2-Hungary loan law to cost Austrian lenders

Thu Jul 10, 2014 7:34am EDT

Related Topics

* Raiffeisen Bank International sees 120-160 mln euro hit

* Erste Group Bank sees impact of up to 300 mln euros

* Bank Austria sees 2014 profit in Hungary, gives no details (Adds comments from Erste Group and Bank Austria)

VIENNA, July 10 (Reuters) - A Hungarian law that makes banks compensate customers for loans deemed to be mispriced will cost Austrian lenders hundreds of millions of euros this year, adding to their burdens in central and eastern Europe, the banks said.

The legislation approved by Hungary's parliament last week could cost the financial sector 600 to 900 billion forints ($2.6-$3.9 billion) in compensation, Hungary's central bank has estimated.

Raiffeisen Bank International said it would take a charge of 120 million to 160 million euros ($164 million to $218 million) as a result of the new legislation.

"RBI estimates that this development could result in a one-off charge, including penalties, of between 120 million euros and 160 million, expected to be spread across the second and third quarters," the bank said in a statement late on Wednesday.

"Income statement allocation of the charge is currently being clarified," the bank said, adding that the amount did not include costs relating to potential future conversion of foreign-currency loans into local currency.

Rival Erste Group said on Thursday it saw a hit of up to 300 million euros from the law, as it had flagged last week when warning it expected a record 2014 loss of up to 1.6 billion euros.

Bank Austria, the central and eastern Europe arm of Italy's UniCredit, was still calculating the impact but would earn money in Hungary this year in any event, Chief Executive Willibald Cernko said.

"We will have a positive annual result in Hungary no matter what lies ahead," he told business journalists, noting the bank was focused more on corporate than retail lending. "We will certainly not have to inject more capital."

Hungary's OTP Bank said last week the law would reduce its second-quarter pre-tax earnings by about 25 billion forints.

Erste Group shares fell 5 percent, UniCredit 4.2 percent and RBI 2.5 percent by 1100 GMT.

The new law says that the exchange rate spread applied in foreign currency loan contracts - the practice of banks using different rates when disbursing loans and when calculating monthly repayments - was void.

The bill also declared that unilateral changes in fees and interest rates, which banks made after the 2008 financial crisis partly to pass on some of their higher foreign-currency refinancing costs, were unfair unless banks can prove otherwise in court.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's government says these are unfair practices which the banks must pay for. It also wants to get rid of foreign-currency loans - once sought after for their low interest rates - that have become an increasing burden for Hungarian households as the forint has weakened.

($1 = 0.7331 Euros) (Reporting by Georgina Prodhan and Michael Shields; Editing by Jane Merriman and Ruth Pitchford)

FILED UNDER: