Thai detects no surge in bad loans, eyes JV for bad assets

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BANGKOK, Jan 27 (Reuters) - Thailand's central bank has not detected any signs of a surge in non-performing loans (NPLs) after imposing various measures to support debtors as the economic activity is hit by coronavirus outbreaks, a senior official said on Thursday.

The central bank will also encourage banks, asset management companies and others bodies to set up a joint venture to manage bad assets, Suwannee Jatsadasak, senior director at the Bank of Thailand (BOT), told a news conference.

While commercial banks remain strong with high levels of capital, reserves and liquidity, there is a need to provide flexibility for lenders and asset firms to jointly handle NPLs that may increase in future, she said.

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Such a joint venture could be set up within three years and operate for at least 15 years, Suwannee said, adding further details would be released later on Thursday.

NPLs at banks stood at 3.14% of lending at the end of September, and were likely steady in the final quarter of 2021 because of long-term debt measures, she said.

Before the pandemic, NPLs were at 3.04% of lending in the first quarter of 2020, Suwannee said.

"If banks did not help debtors, NPLs would surge," she said, noting bad loans were almost 50% of lending during the 1997/98 Asian financial crisis.

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Reporting by Orathai Sriring, Satawasin Staporncharnchai and Kitiphong Thaichareon; Editing by Ed Davies

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