Fitch on Tuesday raised "warning bells" over Greek banks' financial condition, with the credit ratings firm pointing to their vulnerability due to "any deterioration of the Greek operating environment due to their exceptionally weak asset quality, high capital encumbrance by unreserved non-performing exposures (NPEs) and tight liquidity, Fitch Ratings says. This is reflected in their Viability Ratings of 'ccc'."
In a dispatch entitled "Greek Banks Still Face Multiple Challenges", Fitch pointed to the "mountain" of debt entailed in the number and value of non-performing loans (NPLs) and exposures (NPEs) held by Greece's four systemic banks. Reducing NPLs and NPEs in Greece is a standing demand by the country's institutional creditors and Eurozone monetary and banking official.
The entire text reads:
"...The NPE/gross loans ratios of the four largest banks (Alpha, Eurobank Ergasias,
National Bank of Greece, and Piraeus) are exceptionally high, ranging from 45%
at Eurobank to 55% at Piraeus at end-September 2017, despite a moderate
improvement in 2016-2017. We expect NPE reductions to accelerate this year,
supported by a pick-up in the economy, sales of NPE portfolios already announced
and last year's introduction of electronic auctions for foreclosed properties
and a simplified out-of-court workout process. But progress will hinge on a
stable operating environment and a well-functioning market for problem assets.
The introduction of IFRS 9 on 1 January 2018 is likely to have resulted in a
one-off increase in banks' provisions, but the regulatory capital impact will be
limited, given the long phase-in schedule. Only 5% of the impact will be taken
into account in 2018, gradually increasing to 15% in 2019 and 30% in 2020.
Greek banks are likely to maintain a material reliance on the ECB's Emergency
Liquidity Assistance (ELA) for most of the year, with the exception of National
Bank of Greece. However, reliance is reducing, helped by deposit inflows,
divestments, deleveraging, access to interbank repos and issuance of covered
bonds. Private-sector deposits grew by EUR3.4 billion (3%) in July-November
2017, reflecting reduced uncertainty following the completion of the second
review of Greece's economic adjustment programme, in June 2017, and a strong
tourism season. We expect continued moderate deposit inflows as new deposits are
no longer subject to withdrawal restrictions, but depositor confidence remains
sensitive to the political and economic environment.
Greek banks will be subject to a stress-test ahead of the conclusion of Greece's
economic adjustment programme in August 2018. The stress-test will be conducted
on static end-2017 balance sheets, disregarding the banks' NPE reduction plans.
The four largest banks have buffers that could withstand moderate stress. It is
not clear how the stress test will be calibrated or acted upon, but we estimate
that they could accommodate an increase in their impairment reserves over the
stress-test period to 32%-37% of gross loans (from 23%-26% at end-September
2017) before breaching their fully-loaded capital requirements.
Continuing capital controls in Greece mean that banks' Issuer Default Ratings
are likely to remain at 'RD' (restricted default) in the near term. Upgrades
would require significant further relaxation of restrictions on deposit
withdrawals, which appears unlikely at least until after the conclusion of
Greece's economic adjustment programme."