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Greek bank loans subject to COVID-19 repayment relief hit $37 billion last year

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greek banks deferred repayments on 30 billion euros ($36.85 billion) worth of loans last year to help borrowers cope with the financial fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, the country’s banking association said on Tuesday.

Lenders granted payment deferrals to about 400,000 individuals and businesses between January and November, the association said.

The amount of loans under payment deferrals raises concerns that a chunk may become impaired when the period of grace ends, inflating the load of bad debt on banks’ balance sheets.

The European Banking Authority said in December that a deferral period cannot exceed nine months, from the time a loan is placed under deferral status.

Last month Greek’s central bank governor projected that banks were likely to be burdened by 8-10 billion euros of new impaired loans as a result of the pandemic.

Banks had already been working to reduce a mountain of impaired credit, the legacy of a 10-year financial crisis that shrank the country’s economy by a quarter.

Despite the reduction of non-performing loans (NPLs) by about 59 billion euros from a peak of 106 billion in March 2016, banks’ overall NPL ratio of 36% at the end of September remains far above the euro zone average of 2.9%.

The 30 billion euros of loans under payment moratoria does not include another 15 billion of mortgages and consumer and business loans already restructured, meaning banks have offered relief for 45 billion euros of loans in total, their association said.

($1 = 0.8142 euros)

Reporting by George Georgiopoulos; Editing by Pravin Char

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