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September 22, 2017

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Spain's bad loan ratio hits new record of 10.7%: central bank

MADRID -- Spanish banks' bad loans surged to a new record level in September with more than one in ten classed as high risk, the central bank said Monday.

The level of loans considered at high risk of not being repaid — mostly real estate credits — reached 10.7 percent of total loans, the highest level since the records began in 1962, the bank said in a report.

The total value of these loans was 182.2 billion euros (US$233 billion) in September, the bank said.

Spanish banks have been weighed down with rising bad loans and repossessed real estate since the collapse of a property bubble in 2008, which has caused defaults by builders and mortgage holders to soar.

The level of Spanish banks' bad loans, a major concern for financial markets as an indicator of the country's financial health, has risen steadily over recent months.

In August the ratio had reached 10.52 percent, according to revised figures in Monday's report.

A surge in unemployment in Spain, where one in four workers is now jobless, has driven a wave of evictions of defaulting mortgage-holders.

The conservative government last week announced a two-year halt to evictions of the most desperate homeowners following an outcry over suicides linked to evictions.

Eurozone authorities agreed in June to extend a rescue loan of up to 100 billion euros to aid ailing Spanish banks.

An audit by U.S. consultancy Oliver Wyman concluded that Spanish banks overall needed to raise up to 59.3 billion euros of extra capital, or 53.7 billion euros after adjusting for the effect of certain mergers and fiscal procedures.

But the government has said it believes it will need to ask for a lower amount, about 40 billion euros, from the bailout fund, since some of the banks could raise capital themselves.

In August Spain approved the creation of a "bad bank" to buy troubled property assets and bad loans from lenders in a bid to clean up the financial sector and restore investor confidence in the economy.

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