Spain’s banks need more money than tests say: Moody’s


Wed, Oct 03, 2012 - Page 15

Spain’s banks face a capital shortfall that could climb to 105 billion euros (US$135.5 billion), almost double the estimate the government provided last week, according to Moody’s Investors Service.

The nation’s lenders may need infusions of 70 billion euros to 105 billion euros to absorb losses and still keep capital ratios above thresholds outlined in legislation last year, Moody’s analysts wrote in a report on Monday. That compares with the 53.7 billion euro shortfall found last week after officials commissioned a stress test designed to lift doubts about the financial industry’s ability to withstand losses.

“The recapitalization amounts published by Spain are below what we estimate are needed for Spanish banks to maintain stability in our adverse and highly adverse scenarios,” the analysts, Maria Jose Mori and Alberto Postigo, said in the report. “If market participants are skeptical about the stress test, negative sentiment could undercut the government’s efforts to fully restore confidence in the solvency of Spanish banks.”

Spain announced the results of the test, conducted by management consulting firm Oliver Wyman, after commissioning the review of 14 lenders as part of terms to win a European bailout of as much as 100 billion euros for its banks. Lenders suffered more than 180 billion euros of losses linked to souring real-estate loans. The government ordered banks in February and May to recognize 84 billion euros of losses on real-estate assets.

While many assumptions in the stress test were conservative, some may be questioned, Moody’s said.

The test used a 6 percent core capital ratio under a stressed scenario, while the ratings firm assumed capital ratios of 8 percent to 10 percent, according to the report. The rate used by Ireland for its test, including a buffer, was 9 percent.

Even as Moody’s expressed concerns that the government underestimated the banks’ capital needs, a recapitalization is still “intrinsically credit positive” for all of the nation’s lenders since it would involve more capital and more banks than earlier efforts, the ratings firm said.

Meanwhile, credit ratings agency Fitch said on Monday that the latest budget cuts and a key audit on the health of Spanish banks would not affect its rating on the country’s sovereign debt — a medium “BBB” rating with a negative credit outlook.