x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 18 December 2017

German, French banks hold €230 billion of bad loans

Yet Italy still leads the European pack with €260bn

Bad loans mount in the euro zone led by Italy, but Germany and France have hundreds of billions of euros to blame as well. Dario Pignatelli / Bloomberg
Bad loans mount in the euro zone led by Italy, but Germany and France have hundreds of billions of euros to blame as well. Dario Pignatelli / Bloomberg

German and French banks have together amassed almost €230 billion 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.

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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 €260bn 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 €260bn 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 €160bn, while Spain has €139bn and Germany €69bn.

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 per cent 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 US$1 trillion bad loans mountain.

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