Business Irish

Wednesday 3 September 2014

Households cut debt back to 2008 levels as firms trim borrowings

Donal O'Donovan

Published 01/02/2013 | 05:00

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Total State liabilities hit new record of €212bn, up 10pc in last quarter of 2012

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Irish households and businesses are slowly extracting themselves from boom-era debts, but the national debt has hit the highest level in history.

That is according to a wealth of new data published by the Central Bank.

Total government liabilities, including the amounts taxpayers owe to the investors on the markets and owed under the EU/ IMF, increased by 10pc in the last three months of 2012 to €212bn.

It is the highest debt burden ever for Irish taxpayers.

Ironically, the increase in the national debt is in part down to the country's successful return to borrowing on the markets in the second half of 2012.

The national debt is expected to peak next year. Total debt is expected to decline once the gap between the Government's income and expenditure narrows, cutting the need to borrow to fund services.

In better news, the total amount owed by households in Ireland is at the lowest level since late 2008, according to new data from the Central Bank.

Household debt fell to €176.9bn at the end of September from €203.6bn at the end of 2008, according to figures just released. Irish families have repaid €27bn of debt over the past four years, and the amount of new loans being taken out has dwindled.

Income

Even with that big drop, household debt is still more than double the total amount of disposable income. New lending to Irish households fell by 3.9pc in December, with lending to buy houses 1.6pc down on the same time a year earlier, according to the Central Bank

Overall lending to households fell by €372m in December.

Just €4m of the decline was down to a drop in mortgage lending, according to the Central Bank figures, a further sign that the housing market is stabilising.

Businesses are clawing their way out of the debt crisis more slowly than households, the Central Bank figures show.

The total amount owed by Irish businesses fell in the last three months of 2012, for the first time in more than a year.

Irish "non-financial" companies are the second-most heavily indebted in Europe, after Luxembourg, according to the Central Bank. Figures for that country are skewed, however, because it is used as a base for a larger number of companies that are set up purely to borrow for multi-national corporations.

On the banking front, the situation is improving more quickly. Banks' reliance on emergency loans from the Irish and European central banks fell again in December to the lowest level since August 2010.

The banks benefited from greater stability in deposits, paying off debt by selling assets and the gradual return to borrowing on the markets by Bank of Ireland and AIB, according to Juliet Tennant of Goodbody Stockbrokers.

ECB lending to the main Irish banks dropped to €48.7bn at the end of December, with €40.4bn owed to the Central Bank here, mainly by the former Anglo Irish Bank.

Irish Independent

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