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Sunday 4 December 2016

'Big Two' to face tougher rules in new stress test

AIB and BoI will be examined under third set of crises in EU-wide probe, but Anglo not included

Sarah Collins in Brussels

Published 19/01/2011 | 05:00

Finance ministers Jyrki Katainen of Finland, Gyorgy Matolcsy of Hungary, Elena Salgado of Spain, Christine Lagarde of
France, and Britain's George Osborne talk at the European Union Council in Brussels
yesterday
Finance ministers Jyrki Katainen of Finland, Gyorgy Matolcsy of Hungary, Elena Salgado of Spain, Christine Lagarde of France, and Britain's George Osborne talk at the European Union Council in Brussels yesterday

Bank of Ireland and Allied Irish Banks will be probed under a third round of EU-wide stress tests, due to kick off as early as next month.

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But Anglo Irish Bank will not be included in the test, a senior EU diplomat confirmed.

The exercise will assess how the banks' capital reserves fare under hypothetical sovereign debt, housing market and liquidity shocks, with results due out in July.

Banks will be tested first against a control scenario and then under adverse conditions.

EU internal market chief Michel Barnier said the tests would cover 85 lenders in 27 countries and that the adverse scenarios would be more pessimistic than the 2010 round.

Scrutiny

Regulators will extend scrutiny to lenders' banking books -- where most sovereign debt is held -- rather than concentrating on the trading book, where banks account for short-term and more liquid assets.

Seven banks -- from Germany, Greece and Spain -- failed to meet capital requirements under the 2010 stress scenario, which assumed a dip in economic activity and a spike in bond yields.

AIB and Bank of Ireland passed with flying colours, but two months later, the Government revealed that AIB would need an extra €3bn, a cash injection that effectively nationalised the ailing bank.

Analysts said that the previous assumptions weren't tough enough and didn't factor in a possible sovereign default.

EU economics supremo Olli Rehn blamed "weaknesses" in the way some national regulators carried out the 2010 tests.

Labour MEP for Munster Alan Kelly said Ireland was a "poor guinea pig" in the previous round.

"Last year's stress test was supposed to reassure the markets and even the Irish people that that was the end of the bailout," Mr Kelly said.

"However, those tests have since proven to be completely inadequate. The EU policy was to conduct an exercise to calm the markets -- not to assess the real weaknesses in the banking system," he added.

Last night, EU finance ministers meeting in Brussels were thrashing out the basis for the 2011 tests, but diplomats said there were still major divisions over whether to make public the results on banks' liquidity.

The exercise will bring added pressure to bear on ministers to conclude talks on boosting the eurozone's €440bn rescue fund, in case further bank recapitalisations are needed.

"We need a credible response after the tests," Mr Barnier warned.

"If any weaknesses are detected we need fully functioning backstops," he said.

Irish Independent

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