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Slovenia says its banks need billions in extra capital

Reuters with CNBC
Thursday, 12 Dec 2013 | 5:34 AM ET
Jeremy Woodhouse | The Image Bank | Getty Images

Slovenia's banks need 4.8 billion euros ($6.62 billion) to plug the holes in their balance sheets, the central bank said on Thursday, a sum the country can probably scrape together without having to ask its euro zone peers for a bailout.

Banks in Slovenia are saddled with an estimated 7.9 billion euros in bad loans -- equivalent to a fifth of national output -- after the global economic slowdown exposed their poor lending practices and tangled ownership structure.

At stake in Slovenia is whether the euro zone as a whole can say with confidence it is emerging from the convulsions of the past five years, or whether it still risks slipping back into the kind of crises that hit Greece, Ireland and Cyprus.

(Read more: Slovenia Buys More Time With Strong Bond Sale)

EU Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn said on Thursday that the results of health tests show that the country will not need to ask the euro zone for a bailout.

"Today it is clear that Slovenia can proceed with the repair of its financial sector without turning to her European partners for financial assistance," Rehn said in a statement.

Unveiling the results of an external assessment of how much of the banks' lending has gone sour, central bank governor Bostjan Jazbec said the three biggest Slovenian banks needed 3.12 billion euros in re-capitalization.

The three will get 2.1 billion euros in cash, will raise another 441 million euros from imposing losses on junior bondholders, and will get about 905 million euros of government guaranteed bonds, according to documents published by the government.

Five smaller banks would be given until June 2014 to raise 1.1 billion euros from private capital.

The lion's share of Slovenia's bad debt is held by the big three state banks, who together admitted to losses of close to 390 million euros in the first nine months of 2013 and have some of the poorest capital ratios in Europe.

(Read more: Slovenia Must Issue Bond by June 6 to Avoid Trouble: Former PM)

The banking problems represent a dramatic fall from grace for Slovenia, an ex-Yugoslav country that for years was viewed as a haven of stability and economic health.

The government has already received parliamentary approval to recapitalize the banks by up to 4.7 billion euros.

The government plans to ring-fence up to 4 billion in a 'bad bank', leaving healthy banks that would be easier to sell. It needs EU approval to begin the transfer of loans.

Even if Slovenia can avert a calamity now, economists say it will face a drawn-out crisis as it remakes its economy to take account of the new, harsher economic realities.

It will have to conduct a fire sale of assets still owned by the state, including banks, telecoms, supermarkets and newspapers. It may also have to scrap some of its generous social protections, such as a rule requiring employers to give workers an allowance for lunch.

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