Hartwig Löger, minister for economic and financial affairs of Austria

Hartwig Löger, minister for economic and financial affairs of Austria has said that dealing with bad loans and consolidating banks’ balance sheets is essential for bringing back trust and confidence in our financial system. This requires solid prudential rules and effective monitoring tools. Today’s agreement is a significant step towards delivering on these two objectives and ultimately strengthening our banking union.

EU ambassadors approved the Council’s position on capital requirements applying to banks with non-performing loans (NPLs) on their balance sheets.

On the basis of this text, the presidency will be able to start negotiations with the European Parliament as soon as the Parliament is ready to negotiate.

The proposal, initially put forward by the Commission in March 2018, aims at creating a prudential framework for banks to deal with new NPLs and thus to reduce the risk of their accumulation in the future. In particular, it sets requirements to set aside sufficient own resources when new loans become non-performing and creates appropriate incentives to address NPLs at an early stage.

A bank loan is considered non-performing when more than 90 days pass without the borrower (a company or a physical person) paying the agreed instalments or interest. When customers do not meet their agreed repayment arrangements for 90 days or more, the bank must set aside more capital on the assumption that the loan will not be paid back. This increases bank’s resilience to adverse shocks by facilitating private risk-sharing, while at the same time reducing the need for public risk-sharing. Further, addressing possible future NPLs is essential to strengthen the Banking Union, as well as preserves financial stability and encourages lending to create growth and jobs within the Union.

On the basis of a common definition of non-performing exposures, the proposed new rules introduce a “prudential backstop”, i.e. common minimum loss coverage for the amount of money banks need to set aside to cover losses caused by future loans that turn non-performing. In case a bank does not meet the applicable minimum level, deductions from banks’ own funds would apply.

According to the Council’s position, different coverage requirements would apply depending on the classifications of the NPLs as “unsecured” or “secured” and whether the collateral is movable or immovable:

– Regarding NPLs secured by immovable collateral (commercial or residential real estate) it can be reasonably assumed that immovable property will have a remaining value for a longer period of time after the loan turned non-performing. Thus, the proposal provides a gradual increase of the minimum loss coverage level over a period of 9 years. The full coverage of 100% for NPLs secured by movable and other CRR eligible collateral will have to be built up after 7 years.