Saturday, June 5, 2010
IT’S a $2.6 trillion mystery.
That’s the amount that foreign banks and other financial companies have lent to public and private institutions in Greece, Spain and Portugal, three countries so mired in economic troubles that analysts and investors assume that a significant portion of that mountain of debt may never be repaid.
And doubt, as it always does during economic crises, has made Europe’s already vulnerable financial system occasionally appear to seize up. Early last month, in an indication of just how The problem is, alas, that no one — not investors, not regulators, not even bankers themselves — knows exactly which banks are sitting on the biggest stockpiles of rotting loans within that pile.dangerous the situation had become, European banks — which appear to hold more than half of that $2.6 trillion in debt — nearly stopped lending money to one another.
Depfa, a German bank that is now based in Dublin, is one of the few second-tier European banking institutions that have offered detailed disclosures about their financial wherewithal, and its stark troubles may be emblematic of those still hidden on other banks’ books.
Despite boasting as recently as two years ago of its “very conservative lending practices,” Depfa, which caters primarily to governments, has flirted with disaster. It narrowly avoided collapsing in late 2008 until the German government bailed it out, and today its books are still laden with risk.
DEPFA and its parent, Hypo Real Estate Holding, a property lender outside Munich, have 80.4 billion euros in public-sector debt from Greece, Spain, Portugal, Ireland and Italy. The amount was first disclosed in March but did not draw much attention outside Germany until last month, when investors decided to finally try to tally how much cross-border lending had gone on in Europe.
New York Times
Posted by Southofdub at 11:45 PM