OF THE €57.7bn ($68.2bn) of loans that Piraeus Bank, one of Greece’s four dominant lenders, had on its books at the end of March, €20.5bn were more than 90 days overdue. A further €11.7bn were also deemed unlikely to be repaid. In all, at the end of 2017 Greek banks carried €95.7bn of such non-performing exposures (NPEs)—at 43.1% of loans, the heaviest burden in Europe. Still, the pile was €13bn smaller than at its peak in March 2016. The banks plan to reduce it by €30bn this year and next.
Dealing with bad loans to business—around 60% of NPEs, mostly to small firms—is the most daunting part of this monumental job. It means resetting the balance-sheet of much of Greece’s economy, from restaurants to manufacturing. But a new phase of this task is under way, with the first sale of secured commercial loans. On May 29th Piraeus said it had agreed to sell Amoeba, a €1.45bn bundle of loans to around 180 borrowers, to Bain Capital Credit, which has previously bought bad debts in Italy and Spain. The collateral, comprising about 1,700 properties, is mainly in big cities. Other banks have been watching keenly. Alpha Bank, another of the four big banks, is weighing a similar sale. Bankers and investors say Amoeba has helpfully spawned an ecosystem of buyers and advisers.
Clearing away the NPE rubble and renewing...Continue reading