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UPDATE 1-Big Austrian banks don't need more state aid-FMA
December 13, 2011 / 11:21 AM / 6 years ago

UPDATE 1-Big Austrian banks don't need more state aid-FMA

* FMA says big banks don’t need more aid based on current information

* Watchdog sees no credit crunch or liquidity tension

* Expects EBA won’t count private participation capital as core capital (Rewrites first paragraph, adds quotes and background)

By Michael Shields

VIENNA, Dec 13 (Reuters) - Austria’s Financial Market Authority (FMA) does not think any big Austrian commercial bank will require more state aid to meet capital strength targets, despite market volatility, the supervisor said.

Domestic banks were well placed to refinance despite “enormous” problems with this issue elsewhere in Europe, FMA co-head Helmut Ettl told reporters, adding there were no “stress situations” for liquidity in the domestic sector.

“At the moment we don’t see any need” for any more state aid, Ettl said in response to a question, making clear his comment was based on information currently available and referred to major private-sector commercial banks.

His FMA counterpart, Kurt Pribil, said it was too soon to draw final conclusions because no-one could predict the situation in two years given the turmoil on markets.

Ettl said big Austrian banks had been largely spared the refinancing problems that have hit some banks elsewhere in Europe as a result of the sovereign debt crisis.

“We are very well positioned in Austria” when it comes to refinancing, he said. “We see here an enormous problem in other European countries, which is well known. That has to be solved. That is from where the danger emanates.”

Austria stepped in to help big lenders including Erste Group Bank, Raiffeisen and Volksbanken AG when the financial crisis broke out. It also had to nationalise lenders Hypo Alpe Adria and Kommunalkredit.

Ettl said the FMA had detected no signs of a credit crunch even as some lenders seek to scale back balance sheets as a way to hit beefed-up core capital ratio targets.

HARD CAPITAL

He defended the drive to force major European banks to have a 9 percent core Tier One capital ratio by mid-2012 against criticism that the timetable was too short, but noted the target was originally seen as part of a three-pronged approach.

The first pillar was ringfencing the euro zone’s sovereign debt problem countries and setting up safety nets for them. The second was providing refinancing support for the banking sector, and the third was recapitalising big lenders.

“The EBA (European Banking Authority), all of us (supervisors) have always said ... the third part only makes sense in the end if the first two parts take effect at the same time,” Ettl said.

“If the safety net is not functioning then the third step -- taken alone -- is certainly not stabilising.”

Raiffeisen, Erste and Volksbanken need a combined 3.9 billion euros ($5.2 billion) to hit the 9 percent target.

EBA guidelines do not count as core capital the non-voting “participation capital” that some Austrian banks sold to private investors during the crisis, and the FMA officials saw little chance of that changing despite Austrian bankers’ hopes.

“We assume that the EBA won’t change anything here,” Ettl said, noting the EBA deliberately ruled out all but the hardest forms of capital to avoid opening a political can of worms.

Ettl and Pribil said regulators were still working on final tweaks to rules linking lending in emerging Europe to the amount of refinancing that banks can arrange locally. The guidelines may now appear only early next year.

The officials called on Volksbanken to act quickly to complete the sale of its VBI eastern European arm to Russia’s Sberbank and to implement a mutual liability pact with the regional banks that are its majority shareholders.

They declined comment on whether Hypo Alpe Adria can extend a March 2012 deadline to build up a bigger capital buffer. ($1 = 0.7567 euros) (Editing by Hans-Juergen Peters and David Holmes)

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