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Scaling Greece's debt mountain

Tuesday, July 14, 2015 - 01:55

The European Central Bank's decision to support Greece's shuttered banks by keeping its emergency funding line open has given the country's lawmakers a few days to seal reforms for an aid deal to keep it in the euro. But as Sonia Legg reports Greece has a financial mountain to climb.

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Stage one of a deal may have kept Greece in the euro for now. But capital controls remain in place - and ordinary Greeks feel powerless (SOUNDBITE) (Greek) 84 YEAR-OLD PENSIONER, CONSTANTINOS, SAYING: "I have three children and two grandchildren, that makes seven including us. How can we live with 50 euros a day? The state must open the banks so we can take our money. We are suffering." The European Central Bank has been keeping Greek banks afloat by providing 89 billion euros of Emergency Liquidity Assistance, or ELA. But it's also owed money from previous bailouts and a 3.5 billion euro repayment is due. Jeremy Stretch is Head of FX Strategy at CIBC. SOUNDBITE: Jeremy Stretch, Head FX Strategy, CIBC, saying (English): "If that bond payment is not paid on Monday then the ECB will be duty bound to ask for the repayment of that ELA assistance and that will trigger the collapse of the Greek banking system so that bond repayment is absolutely integral to the maintenance of Greece within the euro zone." There's little chance the ECB will be able to bend the rules - Germany's Bundesbank for one would object. And even if the payment is made sorting out the banks longer term after months of crisis will be a massive challenge. Eurogroup finance ministers estimate they'll need 25 billion euros. The sector is likely to be re-organised with four main banks possibly becoming two. It all makes Greece's debt even more unsustainable - and that, says Stretch, is the elephant in the room. SOUNDBITE: Jeremy Stretch, Head FX Strategy, CIBC, saying (English): "There is going to be some re-profiling on the table and there is probably going to be a further extension of debt maturities into the middle and long distance as well as a potential easing of some of those finance scenarios but we are not yet at a scenario where anyone is prepared to accept that the money that has been lent is not going to comeback in its entirety." Another 5 billion euros will need repaying on August 20. And if Athens can get that far the spectre of a Greek default may begin to recede - but it's still a big if.

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Scaling Greece's debt mountain

Tuesday, July 14, 2015 - 01:55