$1 trillion bad loan mountain casts shadow over Europe

FILE PHOTO: The euro sign landmark is seen at the headquarters (R) of the European Central Bank (ECB) in Frankfurt September 2, 2013. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach/File Photo

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - German and French banks have together amassed almost 230 billion euros (205.16 billion pounds)of bad loans, according to regulators’ data, underscoring the scale of a problem often linked solely to Italy that is now causing worry across the region.

The tally puts the combined total of problem loans in the euro zone’s largest economies, France and Germany, close to that of Italy’s 260 billion euro bad debt pile.

It lays bare the extent of the pan-European problem although it is far easier for banks in France and Germany to cope with because bad debts there account for a smaller proportion of overall credit.

After Italy, which had bad loans of 262 billion euros at the end of March, the biggest pockets of debt not repaid over roughly three months are found consecutively in France, Spain, Greece, Germany and the Netherlands.

France has 160 billion euros, while Spain has 139 billion euros and Germany 69 billion euros.

The picture alters when measuring the proportion of loans that are bad. Greece is worst, where almost one in two loans have not been serviced in three months, according to the European Banking Authority.

In Italy and Ireland, roughly one eighth of loans are soured, compared with less than 4 percent in France.

The European Central Bank has encountered stiff resistance in the European Parliament not only from Italian but also German lawmakers to its attempts to clean up Europe’s $1 trillion bad loans mountain.

It is emerging as the biggest challenge yet to the ECB as banks supervisor.

Reporting by John O’Donnell; Editing by Mark Potter