Greek banks can handle capital needs in ECB test-rescue fund CEO

ATHENS, July 19 Sat Jul 19, 2014 2:37pm EDT

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ATHENS, July 19 (Reuters) - Any capital shortfalls that the European Central Bank finds this fall at Greece's four big banks will be manageable, the head of the country's bank bailout fund told Sunday's Kathimerini newspaper in an interview.

The ECB is conducting regional stress tests to review the asset valuations of the euro zone's 128 most important lenders and assess their ability to withstand future crises. National Bank of Greece, Piraeus Bank, Eurobank Ergasias and Alpha Bank will be part of the health check.

The results of the stress test will be published in the second half of October, before the ECB takes on bank supervision on Nov. 4.

"Even if some additional capital needs arise (in the ECB stress test), I believe they will be manageable," Anastasia Sakellariou, chief executive of bank rescue fund HFSF, told the paper.

The four banks, which control about 90 percent of the industry, were bailed out by the European Union and International Monetary Fund, which set aside 50 billion euros ($68 billion) in bank rescue fund HFSF to clean up the sector after its battering in the country's sovereign debt crisis.

The four banks have already been through two rounds of recapitalisation after two stress tests by the Bank of Greece, the country's central bank. National, Piraeus and Alpha are majority-owned by the HFSF rescue fund.

The HFSF pumped 25.5 billion euros into the four banks and spent another 14.4 billion euros to wind down others deemed non-viable. It has a remaining cushion of 11.5 billion euros.

"The economic crisis gave birth to a new but stabler banking system," Sakellariou told the paper, without forecasting how much extra capital the banks may need after the ECB's scrutiny.

Greece's banking sector is troubled by a mountain of impaired loans after six years of deep recession and austerity policies that led to cuts in pay, record unemployment and an increased tax burden.

Non-performing loans reached 77 billion euros, or 33.5 percent of bank loan books at the end of the first quarter, forcing banks to continue to make provisions for bad debt. (Reporting by George Georgiopoulos; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

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