Tue, Jul 05, 2011 - Page 10 News List

South Korea’s savings banks face assets probe

INADEQUATE LIQUIDITY:Those banks with capital adequacy ratios above 5 percent will be eligible for state funds, while others could face suspension

AFP, SEOUL

South Korea’s financial regulator said yesterday it would start assessing the finances of savings banks to see whether they are healthy enough for government support or should be suspended.

The Financial Services Commission (FSC) said the investigation into 85 out of the 93 savings banks would start this month and run through next month.

Authorities have suspended eight savings banks this year for inadequate liquidity after soured real-estate project financing swelled the sector’s bad debt.

The debt is too small to threaten the overall banking and financial sector.

However, the suspensions have fueled anger among small depositors before parliamentary and presidential elections next year, especially after claims that wealthy depositors were tipped off in advance about the action.

The FSC said its probe would focus on capital adequacy ratios stipulated by the Bank for International Settlements standards.

Those savings banks with capital adequacy ratios above 5 percent would be eligible to receive state funds to bolster their assets if they wish.

Banks with a ratio below this would be suspended unless their fiscal health improves within a set period.

“In a bid to help ease market worries over savings banks, financial regulators will try to get the lowdown on the actual situation by examining their businesses and inducing their self-rescue efforts,” FSC chairman Kim Seok-dong told reporters.

“The plans are expected to create a healthy base for the savings bank sector’s growth and reduce market worries,” Yonhap news agency quoted him as saying.

The regulator said it would not suspend any troubled savings banks before its assessment is announced in late September, unless the bank faces a severe liquidity shortage due to customer runs.

Samhwa Mutual Savings Bank, the first savings bank this year to be suspended, was sold to Woori Finance Holdings in March.

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