Desperate measures in Madrid
As Spain trembles on the precipice of becoming the next EU member to
require bailout funds, the government in Madrid has nationalized one of
Spain's largest banks in a bid to shore up its ailing financial sector.
Leader_A hole in the heart of Spanish banking
Mariano Rajoy, Spanish prime minister, insisted when he came to office that not one euro more of taxpayers’ money would be used to bail out the banking sector. But the meltdown at Bankia, the savings bank that holds 10 per cent of the country’s deposits, has forced Mr Rajoy to confront the bull elephant in his room.Despite raising €23bn since the collapse of the property market, Spain’s banking sector remains woefully undercapitalised. The government’s programme of forced consolidation and €54bn in compulsory writedowns may have put pressure on banks to begin facing up to the excesses of their decade-long property binge. But it still failed to address the true extent of the sector’s property problems. As the recession bites, property and land prices are melting; now even the value of previously performing loans is in doubt.
Mr Rajoy is planning to address the issue with a new demand for writedowns, this time on performing loans. The plan is to call for a further €30bn in provisions across the sector. The risk is that even this will not be enough. Spanish banks still have an estimated €180bn in questionable property loans on their balance sheets.
While Madrid is right to call for a more aggressive cull of bad loans, its move to restore confidence in the banking sector as a whole has left it with little choice but to rescue Bankia. Created in 2010 from the merger of seven troubled regional savings banks, the group was already too fragile to take the required initial hit on its mountain of troubled property assets.
The obvious move would have been for the government to stick to its word and refuse to bail Bankia out. Bankia should even be the ideal candidate for a banking resolution scheme, were that possible. But the political fallout of letting Spain’s fourth-largest regional bank go to the wall would have been intolerable for a government already struggling to contain a backlash to austerity. Even creating a bad bank to take on Bankia’s toxic assets would require government support. Either way, taxpayers would foot the bill.
As one of the banks with the biggest portfolio of questionable assets, Bankia also poses a serious threat to restoring confidence in Spain’s financial sector. Two weeks ago, the International Monetary Fund warned that the regional banks – or cajas – still posed a threat to financial stability. No names were mentioned but Bankia was the obvious target.
Nonetheless, investors who bought shares in the banks flotation last year have a right to be incensed. The float was little more than a cosmetic exercise designed to show that structural reforms had worked, even though it raised nothing like enough to meet capital needs. Thousands of ordinary depositors were wooed into buying shares through the group’s formidable local branch network. Those investments are now worth a fraction of their value. Elsewhere this would prompt calls for an inquiry into questionable selling practices. Not in Spain, it seems.
西班牙首相馬里亞諾•拉霍伊(Mariano Rajoy)在上台時堅稱，不會再用納稅人的一分錢紓困該國銀行業。但持有該國10%存款的儲蓄銀行Bankia的崩塌，迫使拉霍伊不得不直面這個問題。自房地產市場崩盤以來，儘管西班牙銀行業已經籌集了230億歐元，但資本依然嚴重不足。西班牙政府迫使銀行業進行整合，並進行540億歐元的強制資產減記，這或許已迫使這個行業正視此前長達十年的房地產狂歡。但該國政府仍未能解決銀行業房地產貸款問題的核心。隨著衰退影響的顯現，房地產價格正在急劇下降；現在，即使是早先的優質貸款，其價值也令人懷疑。拉霍伊計劃用新的減記要求（這次是針對優質貸款）來解決問題。該計劃將要求整個銀行業進一步計提300億歐元的撥備。風險在於，即使這樣也不夠。西班牙各銀行的資產負債表上仍有約1800億歐元的問題房地產貸款。西班牙政府要求銀行更積極剔除壞賬，這是正確的，但它若要恢復銀行業的整體信心，除了紓困Bankia之外別無選擇。 Bankia是在2010年由7家陷入困境的地區儲蓄銀行合併而成的，它已經如此脆弱，根本無法採取必要措施，來處理其堆積如山的問題房產類資產。西班牙政府原本該做的，是信守承諾，拒絕紓困Bankia。如果可能，Bankia甚至應該成為西班牙銀行業問題解決計劃的理想候選者。但對一個已經被反緊縮浪潮弄得吃不消的政府來說，放任西班牙第四大地區性銀行崩潰帶來的政治後果將是無法承受的。即便創造一個“壞賬銀行”來接收Bankia的有毒資產，也需要政府支持。無論哪一種方式，納稅人都將為此買單。作為一家擁有最多問題資產的銀行，Bankia還對西班牙金融業的信心恢復造成嚴重威脅。兩週前，國際貨幣基金組織(IMF)警告稱，地區銀行（即儲蓄銀行）仍對金融穩定構成威脅。 IMF沒有具體提及哪家銀行，但矛頭顯然指向了Bankia。不論如何，去年這些銀行上市時購買股份的投資者有理由感到憤怒。上市只不過是一種旨在表明結構性改革已經奏效的粉飾舉措，即便它根本無法籌集足夠的資金來滿足資本需求。通過強大的地方分支網絡，Bankia爭取到大量普通儲戶購買其股份。目前這些股份的價值只有當初投資的零頭。在其他地方，這將迅速激起人們要求對存在問題的推銷做法展開調查。但在西班牙，情況似乎並非如此。譯者/何黎