IMF recently warned about growing own-sovereign exposures of European banks when it comes to government bonds holdings. FT echoed with an article: http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/9b6fb558-3270-11e3-b3a7-00144feab7de.html
- "...Government bonds accounted for more than a 10th of Italian banks’ total assets at the end of August, the last month for which data are available. That is up from 6.8 per cent at the beginning of 2012, according to data from the European Central Bank."
- "In Spain the proportion has risen to 9.5 per cent, up from 6.3 per cent over the same period…"
- "… in Portugal it has increased to 7.6 per cent from 4.6 per cent."
"By far the majority of the increases – which occurred steadily month-on-month – are in holdings of bonds issued by banks’ own governments." So overall, "Government bonds, as a percentage of total eurozone bank assets, have grown to 5.6 per cent from 4.3 per cent since the beginning of 2012."
Lest we forget, there is a strong momentum building up in Europe to do something about the problem of European banks over-reliance on sovereign bonds - a momentum driven by lower debt countries with significant exposures to Target 2 imbalances. At the end of September, ECB's Governing Council Member Jen Weidmeann said that "The time is ripe to address the regulatory treatment of sovereign exposures," Weidmann wrote in an opinion piece published on the website of the Financial Times. "Without it, I see no reliable way of breaking the sovereign-banking nexus." (see here: http://www.efxnews.com/story/20978/ecb-weidmann-time-end-preferential-treatment-gov-debt?utm_content=bufferffb97&utm_source=buffer&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=Buffer)
Basically, removing automatic zero risk weighting on sovereign bonds, especially for the weaker peripheral sovereigns will be a major problem for the European banks and can precipitate a strong sell-off of the sovereign bonds. I suspect it will be unlikely to take place in the current environment. But gradual shift toward such an approach can easily take place.
Another recent article highlighted the shift away from foreign lending by European banks on foot of the growing sovereign debt exposures: http://www.voxeu.org/article/impact-sovereign-debt-exposure-bank-lending-evidence-european-debt-crisis
Based on Forbes data,
- BNP Paribas has total assets of USD2,668 billion, with USD43.1 billion in peripheral 'light' (ex-Cyprus) Government bonds (1.62% of total assets);
- Deutsche Bank has total assets of USD2,545 billion, with USD16.2 billion in peripheral (ex-Cyprus) Government bonds (0.64% of total assets);
- HSBC has total assets of USD2,468 billion, with USD6.7 billion in peripheral (ex-Cyprus) Government bonds (0.27% of total assets);
- Barclays has total assets of USD2,328 billion, with USD29.2 billion in peripheral 'light' (ex-Cyprus) Government bonds (1.26% of total assets);
- RBS has total assets of USD2,266 billion, with USD3.5 billion in peripheral (ex-Cyprus) Government bonds (0.15% of total assets);
- Credit Agricole has total assets of USD2,131 billion, with USD19.1 billion in peripheral (ex-Cyprus) Government bonds (0.89% of total assets);
- Banco Santander has total assets of USD1,610 billion, with USD69.6 billion in peripheral (ex-Cyprus) Government bonds (4.32% of total assets);
- Lloyds has total assets of USD1,546 billion, with USD0.1 billion in peripheral (ex-Cyprus) Government bonds (0.01% of total assets);
- Societe Generale has total assets of USD1,512 billion, with USD9.7 billion in peripheral (ex-Cyprus) Government bonds (0.64% of total assets);
- Unicredit has total assets of USD1,232 billion, with USD54.3 billion in peripheral (ex-Cyprus) Government bonds (4.41% of total assets)
Two charts highlighting the plight of Spanish and Italian banks in terms of their sovereign bonds exposures (first) and the levels of LTROs exposures: