The recovery of the Eurozone (EZ) economy has made even more pressing the tackling of its debt overhang with the bulk of over 1 trillion Non-Performing Loans (NPLs) concentrated in the more vulnerable economies of the EZ periphery. There is clearly a need to adopt a more radical approach to resolving NPLs than merely augmenting supervisory tools and national legal frameworks. The discussion about the feasibility of country-based or Pan-European Asset Management Companies (AMCs) to tackle legacy NPLs has recently intensified. Yet political objections premised on fears of debt mutualisation, the structural and legal questions surrounding the possible establishment of AMCs, and differing recovery rates and levels of market transparency within the EZ have led to the dismissal of the idea by the European Council. This article discusses the merits and shortcomings of AMCs in tackling NPLs and proposes a comprehensive structure for a Pan-European “bad bank” with virtually ring-fenced country subsidiaries to ensure burden sharing without debt mutualisation. The proposed “bad bank” structure intends to resolve a host of governance, valuation, and transparency problems that would otherwise surround a “bad bank” solution. Also, the proposed scheme is in effecoctive compliance with the EU state aid regime and could lead, if implemented, to the alleviation of the EZ debt overhang to stimulate credit growth.
We propose a comprehensive, pan-European scheme to address the issue of non-performing exposures. We contend that securitisation is the most effective way to sell the bulk of troubled loans because it can rise the transfer price at a level closer to the real economic value, reducing the loss for the banks at bearable levels. Through a numerical example, we describe the main characteristics of a blueprint of securitisation to be implemented at a national level. We argue that this scheme could attract funds from a wide array of investors, while forms of public support can be worked out in terms compatible with the current European rules on state aid.
The final step in the repair of the EU banking sector is cleaning up legacy assets. Otherwise, all of the work we have done to strengthen banks’ capital and assess the quality of their assets will not have the desired positive impact on new lending into the real economy.
Progress is in train but has been slow to date. Although asset quality issues are particularly relevant in some Member States, this is a single market problem and coordinated action is vital for success.
The ongoing effort of supervisors in pushing banks to take action requires that the supporting infrastructure is in place. This means fixing legal systems, which will take time, and addressing market failures in the secondary market for non-performing loans (NPLs), which can be done now. There are legitimate questions about how this should be done, which are addressed in this paper, but those should not be a cause for delay. Whether it be a single European Asset Management Company or a coordinated blueprint for national governments to enact is less important than taking coordinated action urgently.
The large stock of non-performing loans (NPLs) held by euro area banks should be more swiftly resolved, while avoiding fire sales. We make a case for a comprehensive European solution, combining various NPL resolution tools. Within the NPL resolution toolkit Asset Management Companies (AMCs) may offer significant benefits by bridging inter-temporal pricing gaps for asset classes such as commercial real estate loans. We outline elements of an EU-wide blueprint for country-specific AMCs, including state aid aspects, asset and participation perimeters, asset valuation, capital and funding structure, and governance. In addition to AMCs, internal NPL work-out will always play an important role in NPL resolution, complemented by private information and trading platforms, and securitisation schemes.
Persistently high non-performing exposures (NPLs) in several European countries pose significant challenges to financial stability and are likely weighing on credit growth and economic activity. This paper, which summarizes a detailed IMF analysis (IMF SDN/15/19), examines the structural obstacles that discourage European banks from addressing their problem loans. It argues that a comprehensive approach comprising three pillars is needed to accelerate balance sheet clean-up: (1) intensified banking oversight, to incentivize write-off or restructuring of impaired loans, including fostering more conservative provisioning and time-bound restructuring targets on banks’ NPL portfolios; (2) enhanced insolvency and debt enforcement regimes, and more developed out-of-court restructuring frameworks; and (3) the development of distressed debt markets by improving market infrastructure and, in some cases, using asset management companies (AMCs) to jump-start the market. A variety of facilitating measures could support these three main pillars, including better public registers, the removal of tax disincentives, and debt counseling services.