Tuesday, September 13, 2011

13/09/2011: German and French Banks - "extreme" leverage & elevated risks

So what's the real trouble with German (and French) banks, folks? Errrm... they are kinda seriously bordering the "insolvency" territory.

The sources for this information, in addition to those cited below, include an excellent research note prepared by Peter Mathews (FG), TD for the Dail Finance Committee, the IMF GFSR and IMF WEO databases.

Deutsche Bank

Leveraged 52:1 (16 August 2011) based on a Tangible Common Equity (TCE) to Total Asset measurement.

Tangible Common Equity is a better gauge of solvency than Tier 1 capital, particularly in the midst of a liquidity crisis. Tier 1 gives no sense of a bank's ability to withstand a liquidity crunch as it includes market-sensitive instruments that are subject to liquidity and price declines risks. Tangible Common Equity is also a much better indicator of a bank's ability to raise further funds in the market as it inversely relates to the rate of assets dilution implied in any rights issuance. (1), (2)

As TCE of €36.2bn is written against €1.85 trillion of assets, DB has just 1.96% cover in form of TCE against assets it holds - a writedown of just 2% on the asset values (cross the book) will wipe out the DB TCE cushion, rendering its current equity-holders de facto bust. Even excluding derivatives, MorningStar estimated DB leverage (TCE ratio 2.1%) at 47.6:1.

DE's current leverage levels compare unfavorably against 44:1 TCE leveraging on Lehman Bros books at the time of collapse (ordinary leverage ratio in Lehman's prior to collapse was 31:1) and makes DB the second most-leveraged bank in the euro area after Credit Agricole.

To bring DB closer to sustainable levels of TCE delveraging - 8-10% reading (note this is different from Tier 1 capital) will require it raising €110-150 billion in equity (depending on specifics of risk weighting ratios) or 3-4 times the current valuation of TCE or 3-4 times the current market value of the DB. Implied dilution for current equity holders under such scenario bears the risk of 75%- 80% loss on equity.

Note that 8-10% ratios are rather conservative, considering that in 2006-2009 TCEs for countries with banking sector crisis averaged (across top100 banks) TCEs of 11.5% to 15.3%. (3) Raising TCEs to the crisis-average levels of ca 13.4% will require equity raising of ca 5.7 times current market valuations or implied dilution of current equity by 85%.

To match TCE/Total Asset leverage ratio of the most leveraged US bank, JP Morgan chase (5.58%), DB would require €67 billion of additional equity or equity raising to the tune of 1.8 times current market cap.

DE's current market capitalisation of €37 billion as of 2 September matches relatively closely tangible common equity of €36.2 billion. In previous weeks, DE market cap fell as low as €26 billion or 70% of TCE. A market capitalisation at or below TCE is a warning sign that the bank is in trouble and questions surround its solvency and stability.

Worse than that, per research from Espirito Santo, DB liquid assets as % of the short term (<1 year) funding in 2010 stood at 47%, well below global leaders Credit Suisse (82%), UBS (77%) and Barclays (59%). At the same time 2010 wholesale funding maturity requirement was 49% - in excess of the iquid assets cover. Again, Credit Suisse had 33% funding call against 82% cover.

DB is structurally important to Germany as its assets stand at around €1.85 trillion, close to 75% of Germany's 2010 GDP (€ 2.498 trillion).

DB exposure to Greek assets is €1.6 billion for the core Group components (sovereign debt only), of which €1.34 billion in Deutsche Postbank AG exposures. Under 70% haircut scenario across the entire DB Group, the total implied loss will be around 5% of TCE.


Current leverage around 35:1 in TCE terms, which is elevated compared to both historical averages and 2008-2009 crisis levels for comparable institutions. Given current assets valuations at ca €700 billion, the implied TCE is 2.92%, which means that a writedown of 3% of the assets will result in a complete wipe-out of TCE.

The core problem with 35:1 TCE leveraging in the current environment of globally impaired liquidity is that any deleveraging of the balance sheet will require substantial equity rising, similar to that in DE as discussed above. Adjusting for derivatives held, TCE ratio in Commerzbank runs at 30:1 - according to MorningStar who called this leverage ratio as consistent with "extreme" risk rating.

Together with DB, Commerzbank account for ca 102% of German GDP. As German debt to GDP ratio currently stands at 83% and heading for 87% , German taxpayers can see significant adverse impact of the DB and Commerzbank recapitalizations should the calls on PIIGS come in.

Commerzbank is the most exposed of all German banks when it comes to Greek sovereign debt, with nominal exposure at of the end of Q2 2011 of €2.9 billion. Applying the market-expected mid-point writedown in the case of default of 70%, bank losses on the Greek sovereign bonds will wipe out around 19% of the bank equity.

Recent data shows deep concentrations of Greek risks exposures in German banking sector, with German commercial banks holding ca €19.3 billion in public sector debt from Greece, €2.9 billion worth of banks debt from Greek banks and €7.4 billion of corporate and private debt, to the total of €29.5 billion (per BIS data). According to Fitch research, only €13.1 billion of that is on the banks balancesheets, the rest tucked away off the books.

French Banks

Credit Agricole is leveraged 70:1 (assets €1.5 trillion), while BNP Paribas is leveraged 36:1 (assets €1.93 trillion, Common Equity Tier 1 ratio of 9.6% well below minimum standard set for SIFIs of 10%). Bank's assets to market value currently stands at 64:1. BNP's exposure to Greek debt is now at ca €4 billion. SocGen is leveraged 34:1 (assets €1.16 trillion) on TCE basis and 28:1 on ordinary basis (again, recall Lehman's numbers at the point of collapse were 44:1 and 31:1) the bank has huge short term funding requirements presently being exposed by the flight out of Europe by US money market funds and Asian investors. SocGen exposure to PIIGS debt is €4.3 billion, referring to banking book only. SocGen is also in trouble on the liquid assets side with 26% ratio of liquid assets to short-term wholesale funding calls in 2010. Worse, wholesale funding that matured within 1 year of 2010 as percent of total wholesale funding was 69% for SocGen. Three French pillar banks have assets coming in at well over 200% of French GDP.

The banks are aggressively moving out of the PIIGS with SocGen in recent note stated that it cut its exposures to the peripheral states by 23% since early June 2011, taking out $1.5 billion and $2 billion in assets from Greek and Italian books. French banks total exposure to Greece is estimated at around $89 billion.

On top of this, French banks are now becoming effectively shut out of the dollar funding markets (4). And liquidity woes do not stop there. US Prime money funds have cut their holdings in certificates of deposits from French banks by about 40% in the three months through August 11. The proportion of the remaining holdings of French banks short term funding notes maturing in less than a month increased to 56% on August 11 from 17% on June 11. (5) The banks, of course, deny this is happening.

Let's run though some grim figures for one of the French "dogs" - BNP: as of June 30, 2011, the bank had €109bn worth of sovereign bonds on its books, amounting to 190% of the bank TCE (that's JUST Government bonds!), of which €31bn (or 54% of TCE) was in PIIGS bonds split as follows: Portugal - €1.7bn, Ireland - €400mln, Italy - €23bn, Greece - €3.8bn, and Spain €2.5bn. 95% of these exposures were held on banking book. So, now, let's do the same exercise as above - apply 50% haircut to Greek bonds, 25% haircuts to Porto bonds, 15% to Spanish, Irish and Italian bonds - all below market rates of implied haircuts, but let's indulge them with this assumption. This adds up to a writedown of €6.21bn or a wipe out of 11% of TCE. Bank becomes insolvent.


To summarise the above, two of German core banking institutions are currently operating in the extremely risky environment with leverage levels that can be classified as "extreme". The French banking system is even more sick than the German one with leverage ratios close to those attained by Lehman and PIIGS exposures that are well in excess of "manageable", given already strained capital cushions.

In common parlance, if it barks & wags the tail, it's a dog... regardless of what the official stress tests and powerpoint slides say.


(1) See BASEL III: Long-term impact on economic performance and fluctuations, by P. Angelini, L. Clerc, V. Cúrdia, L. Gambacorta, A. Gerali, A. Locarno, R. Motto, W. Roeger, S. Van den Heuvel, J. Vlc_ek, BIS Working Paper 338, February 2011, http://ssrn.com/abstract=1858724

(2) Note that Tier 1 capital is classified into different Tiers of capital, based broadly on the maturity profile of the capital invested. The most stable capital is Tier 1 capital and consists of items such as paid-up ordinary shares, non-cumulative and non- redeemable preference shares, non-repayable share premiums, disclosed reserves and retained earnings.

(3) Bank Behavior in Response to Basel III: A Cross-Country Analysis, by Thomas F. Cosimano and Dalia S. Hakura1, May 2011, WP/11/119, IMF Working Paper, Table 3.

(4) http://www.forexcrunch.com/bnp-paribas-executive-admits-access-denied-for-dollars/

(5) http://www.businessweek.com/news/2011-09-13/bnp-paribas-socgen-rebound-after-rejecting-funding-concerns.html
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