Tuesday, March 3, 2009
When EE explode, will it drag down Western Europe?
According to the IMF, European banks have 75% as much exposure to US toxic debt as American banks, but 90% of all cross border loans to Eastern Europe originate from Western European banks. And, to add insult to injury, European banks have been much slower than US banks in terms of recognising their losses. Write-offs now total about $750 billion in the US and only about $325 billion in Europe. Austria is in greatest trouble, so are Belgium and Sweden According to the latest estimates from BIS, Eastern European countries currently borrow $1,656 billion from abroad, three times more than in 2005 and mostly denominated in foreign currencies (ouch!). 90% of that can be traced to Western European banks. About $350 billion must be repaid or rolled over this year. Not an easy task in these markets. Austrian banks alone have lent about $300 billion to the region, equivalent to 68% of its GDP according to the Financial Times. A default rate of 10% on its Eastern European loans is considered enough to wipe out the entire Austrian banking system. EBRD has gone on record stating that defaults in Eastern Europe could end up as high as 20%.