The current overhang of NPLs in Europe is not exceptional in a historical perspective. However, despite the wealth of experience in NPL resolution accumulated after earlier crisis episodes, resolving Europe’s NPL problem continues to be a thorny issue. Difficulties reflect the chronic nature of the NPL malaise this time round but also the widely differing perceptions about the upside that NPLs may still present. For these reasons, NPL stocks are unlikely to decline fast and the costs of delayed action continue to accumulate. A number of promising resolution schemes – involving specialised asset management companies, specialised servicers, and/or securitisations – have been put forward. To be effective, these schemes will require hard policy choices to be made.
NPLs are a dominant problem for banks in the euro area as in some countries almost one quarter of loans are not serviced. NPLs represent a real challenge for bank profitability and financial stability. In addition, they constrain credit expansion and delay economic recovery.
Despite some recent progress, slow growth and persistent unemployment as well as low investment interest due to asymmetric information and a wide bid-ask price wedge, make extremely difficult the cleaning of banks’ balance sheets.
A series of options have been suggested with a view to improving conditions in the European NPL market and reinforcing investor confidence respecting at the same time state aid rules. Public intervention measures, such as asset management companies and other co-investment strategies are deemed necessary in order to increase market efficiency and create a virtuous circle of reductions in NPLs and increases in investment and growth much needed in the euro area.
We focus on the restructuring of troubled banks in the Eurozone. First, we review how legacy assets (mostly NPLs) were dealt in various countries (especially Japan, USA, Sweden and Spain), supporting a centralized solution in case of generalized banking crises. Second, drawing on the credit channel literature, we stress the need to differentiate between systemic and non-systemic events. Third, we theoretically advocate a systematic centralised Eurozone level approach to maintain fair recovery rates of restructuring banks’ NPLs. Our paper contributes to the lively debate on how to reinvigorate the EU banking system and thus avoid the related negative macroeconomic consequences.
This material was originally published in a paper provided at the request of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs of the European Parliament and commissioned by the Directorate-General for Internal Policies of the Union and supervised by its Economic Governance Support Unit (EGOV). The opinions expressed in this document are the sole responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position of the European Parliament. The original paper is available on the European Parliament’s webpage. © European Union, 2017
Impaired assets such as non-performing loans (“NPLs”) continue to pose significant problems across the EU. When possible solutions are being considered, “bad banks” or similar impaired asset relief measures are often discussed. However, if they involve support by the State such measures need to be compliant with a set of EU law provisions. This article aims to clarify which interventions are considered to be State aid, and to give an overview of the compatibility conditions that apply to State aid measures. A brief explanation is also given concerning the recent changes brought about by the EU’s new recovery and resolution framework introduced by the Banking Recovery and Resolution Directive (“BRRD”).