Tuesday, January 24, 2012

24/1/2012: Europe's Latest Non-Leadership on ESM/EFSF

Another heated non-debate is sweeping Europe. In the latest round of bizarre, outright Kafkaesque rhetorical contortions, European leaders are now engaged in a heated discussion on the 'enlargement' of ESM. Alas, the whole thing is clearly heading for the same outcome as Europe's previous rounds of 'solutions'. Here's why.

Recently, as reported in German press (here) Angela Merkel started to yield on the idea that the 'permanent' ESM fund should be increased from €500 billion to closer to €1 trillion by, among other things, allowing for concurrent running of existent €250 billion EFSF facility and the setting up of the new ESM.

Sadly, this 'solution' is really a complete red herring, despite all the hopes the EU is pinning onto it. In fact, it so much of a fake, the markets are simply likely to laugh their way through it.

The EFSF is designed to run out of time in the end of 2013. ESM is designed to start the earliest in mid-2012. Which means that even in theory, combined ESM/EFSF can last not much longer than 12 months. In practice, however, even this is not going to happen.

Firstly, EFSF is becoming increasingly funded through short term debt issuance and this means that as we hit 2013, the rate of EFSF paper maturing is going to accelerate. To roll this into longer-dated paper will require more than just re-writing the statutes of the EFSF. It will require EFSF raising funding at the same time as ESM is raising funding. The likelihood of this being a successful market funding strategy is zero.

Secondly, ESM capital basis of (meagre) €80 billion is not going to be fully invested on the initiation of the fund. Which means ESM even in theory is not going to come out on day 1 and borrow full €500 billion capacity. In practice, it can't be expected to raise even 1/4 of that in the first year of operations.

Which means that even running concurrently, EFSF+ESM duo will not constitute a fund with anything close to €750 billion capacity. And this means that European leadership is clearly in line for winning the Global Non-Leadership Prize again this year. IMF, insisting on the concurrent running of EFSF/ESM as well, is going to be a runner up.

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