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Turkey asks commercial banks to write off bad debts by end of 2020

In bid to boost lending and growth, regulator will ask commercial banks to develop their own paths to lower NPL ratios

As part of a plan that’s been approved by the Ministry of Treasury and Finance, the bad-debt plan is the latest step in the government’s efforts to kick-start the economy through faster credit growth. AFP 
As part of a plan that’s been approved by the Ministry of Treasury and Finance, the bad-debt plan is the latest step in the government’s efforts to kick-start the economy through faster credit growth. AFP 

Turkey is working on a plan to rid banks of their non-performing loans as policymakers step up attempts to boost lending and growth.

The banking regulator, known as BDDK, will soon ask the nation’s lenders to slash the bad-debt ratio in their balance sheets so that credit to industrialists starts flowing again, according to sources.

As part of a plan that’s been approved by the Ministry of Treasury and Finance, the regulator will ask commercial banks to develop their own road maps to lower NPL ratios, said a source.

Lenders will either have to sell bad debt to investors or increase the size of their loan books to push down NPL ratios. Banks will have until the end of 2020 to meet bad-debt targets, and the regulator will check progress monthly. Both the ministry and the banking regulator declined to comment.

The bad-debt plan is the latest step in the government’s efforts to kick-start the economy through faster credit growth. Some commercial banks remain reluctant to increase lending before they clean up their balance sheets. Capital levels and asset quality have come under scrutiny following last year’s currency crash, which triggered a wave of corporate debt-restructuring demands.

The move “confirms once more that credit induced growth remains the government’s priority”, said Wolfango Piccoli, co-president of Teneo Intelligence in London. “Rebalancing the economy, devising a new economic model are distant concerns for a government that seems to be focused mainly on a short term fixes and wins,” he said by email.

The ratio of bad loans to total credit in the system stood at 5.2 per cent in October and may reach 6.3 per cent by the end of the year, according to the banking regulator. The government wants the banks to reduce the average ratio to 2 per cent to 3 per cent by the end of 2020, one of the people said.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government dramatically increased its 2020-2022 economic growth target to 5 per cent, arguing it can be achieved without stoking inflation and generating the yawning current-account gap that dogged previous upswings. Success will hinge on the strength of the private sector, investment and exports.

Turkey’s banking regulator in September told lenders to reclassify 46 billion liras of loans as non-performing by the end of the year. Bloomberg reported on Thursday that it later decided to let lenders determine which company loans need to be reclassified as non-performing, and revised how banks classify credit to once-troubled companies, potentially helping them avoid adding more problem loans to their books.

Updated: December 9, 2019 04:38 AM

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