Saturday 17 August 2019

The devil is in the detail which has still to be signed off on


Donal O'Donovan

EUROPE has a deal, but do we have a solution to the debt crisis?

The plan announced by European leaders early yesterday includes some headline-grabbing numbers but features little detail.

On Greece, private sector lenders agreed to take a 50pc "haircut" or loss.

It would mean a saving of up to €130bn, based on a write-off of half the Greek government bonds held by the private sector. The biggest holders of the debt are banks in France, Germany and other euro countries.

They will go through with the voluntary deal, because not doing so means defying the finance ministers in their home countries -- who signed off on the deal.

Banks and insurers know that government goodwill over the long term beats any short-term saving.

Not all of the money owed by the Greek government is held by European banks and insurance companies, however. Some is held by hedge funds and some by banks in the US and Japan.

Pressuring them to accept the deal is a much harder ask, making the final saving hard to predict.

The "50pc" saving is problematic in other ways.

Lenders that sign up for the losses will be handed back new bonds that benefit from €30bn of European bailout-fund guarantees on their new investment.

It goes a long way to making up some of their loss.


The final detail on the bank "bail-in" remains to be seen.

Final negotiations with the banks will actually run until the end of the year, so the overall saving won't be known until then.

Other major elements of the deal can be unpicked just as easily. In Brussels, euro leaders said the €440bn rescue fund was too small -- they backed "leveraging" the fund to boost its firepower.

That's code for making the fund do more without making it any bigger -- after German insistence. The fund needs to be boosted.

The current €440bn is a big number but €140bn is already committed to bailouts here and in Greece and Portugal -- up to €100bn more could be needed for bank rescues, leaving "just €250bn" to deal with the markets. Leaders said the last figure needed to be five times bigger.

The bailout fund will either be spread thinner or money has to be found elsewhere.

Spreading the funds thinner will be done by using the fund to provide partial guarantees to bond investors, instead of spending the cash to buy bonds outright.

Boosting the fund means Europe bringing in co-investors from outside the euro countries -- probably the Chinese and Brazilian governments.

These emerging countries will hope to make a profit on bond investments that the bailout fund makes -- more importantly they want an end to the debt crisis before it reaches their home nations.

Just like the other elements of the deal, precise details have been left for another day, set to be finalised probably some time in November

The third, most straightforward element of the plan is the call for Europe's banks to raise around €106bn in new cash to withstand possible losses.

That figure is unlikely to change much -- but even then final costs won't be known until at least next month.

Irish Independent

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