FRANKFURT Oct 2 Banks charged companies in most
euro zone countries less to borrow in August, although firms in
the south of the bloc still often paid more than twice as much
as those in the north, ECB data showed on Wednesday.
High interest rates in the crisis-hit euro zone's indebted
southern states continue to hamper the European Central Bank's
efforts to steer the bloc's economy back to robust growth.
The ECB must treat all banks in the 17 countries that use
the euro alike, regardless of the financial strains any
individual state may be experiencing, and cannot tailor its
policy to each country separately.
* The rates banks charged on corporate loans of between
250,000 euros and 1 million euros ($340,000-$1.35 million), used
mainly by small and medium-sized enterprises, or SMEs, fell by
12 basis points in the euro zone in August from a month before.
* The situation is still very uneven across the bloc,
however. The ECB's measure of country-to-country variation in
SME loans reversed July's gains and was at the same level as in
* Cyprus, which was bailed out by its euro zone peers
earlier this year, saw the biggest reduction in borrowing costs,
down more than a full percentage point, although its SMEs still
face the highest interest rates in the bloc.
* Rates for SME loans also fell in Spain, where they reached
their lowest level since February 2011, but rose slightly in
Italy, to an average 3.85 percent from 3.81 percent.
* Loan rates for smaller Spanish and Italian companies
remained more than twice as high as those in Belgium, whose SMEs
paid the lowest borrowing costs in the bloc.
* Interest rates for new corporate loans of more than 1
million euros also fell in August, to an average 2.17 percent
for the euro zone as whole - the lowest level since May 2010,
when Greek debt crisis intensified.
* Country-to-country variation on large corporate loan
interest rates increased slightly and remains well above levels
seen before last year.
* The reduction in interest charged for large business loans
was again most pronounced in Cyprus, falling below Greek levels.
* But larger Cypriot and Greek firms have to pay more than 5
percent in annual interest, compared with less than 2 percent
for their competitors in Austria, Germany, France and the
Netherlands, the data showed.
($1 = 0.7393 euros)
(Reporting by Sakari Suoninen; Editing by Catherine Evans)