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article imageGreece seeks more time to shore up ailing banks

By AFP     Mar 6, 2014 in Business

Greece wants more time to shore up its crisis-hit banks, a government source said Thursday, as the authorities were locked in a dispute with EU-IMF creditors on how much it would cost to do so.

"We are asking for more time for the banks," a finance ministry source told AFP.

Another ministry official told state agency ANA: "We are asking for equal treatment with other European banks."

The Bank of Greece is due later Thursday to announce a long-delayed set of stress tests on the banks, enacted to determine the amount of fresh capital needed to cope with challenges such as mounting bad loans.

According to reports, the Greek central bank estimates the top commercial banks need 5 to 6 billion euros, based on stress tests commissioned from private analysts BlackRock and confirmed by Ernst & Young and Rothschild as external advisors.

However, the country's creditors -- the European Union, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank -- reportedly believe Greek banks will need more funds than that.

A source close to the talks this week said the IMF estimates capital requirements at 8.5 to 9 billion euros.

The stress test results were originally supposed to have been announced in December, and are separate from those to be conducted by the ECB this year as part of it taking over as the eurozone's banking supervisor.

"Greek banks should have equal time with European banks, whose recapitalisation needs will be known in November," the second ministry official told ANA.

Eurobank's chief economist Gikas Hardouvelis recently said that Greek banks are fully capable of raising 6 to 8 billion euros in capital from the markets.

All four of Greece's main lenders -- National Bank, Piraeus, Alpha and Eurobank -- were recapitalised last year as part of the Greek bailout.

A sum of 50 billion euros from Greece's EU-IMF rescue loans was earmarked for their recapitalisation after heavy losses suffered by Greek banks which wrote down privately-held Greek government bonds in 2012.

Financial daily Naftemboriki on Thursday said Eurobank will require up to 2.9 billion euros, National Bank needs up to 2.3 billion, and Piraeus Bank and Alpha Bank want up to 300 million euros.

EU, IMF and ECB officials are currently conducting an audit of Greek finances that will determine whether Athens gets billions more in bailout loans, with Greece facing debt repayments of 6.6 billion euros ($9 billion) by next month.

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