Spain bad loan ratio rises to record

Spanish banks’ bad loans as a percentage of total credit rose to a fresh high of 11.6 per cent in June, Bank of Spain data showed yesterday, as more households and small companies, particularly those from the property sector, struggle with debts.

The rise in loans in arrears has dragged on Spanish banks’ earnings in the first half of 2013, even though in the second quarter some reported a slower rate of increase in bad loans.

The overall bad debt ratio for Spanish banks was up from 11.2 per cent in May and has been steadily increasing since a drop-off at the end of last year when rescued lenders transferred toxic property assets to Spain’s so-called bad bank.

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The Bank of Spain had previously put the bad debt ratio at 11.6 per cent last November, using provisional data, though this was later revised to 11.4 per cent.

Spanish lenders’ earnings were gutted last year by steep government-enforced provisions on properties and loans to developers, in the wake of a 2008 real estate crash.

Those unable to cope were bailed-out with European funds, and most of their real estate loans were transferred to a government-backed bad bank.

Some top lenders, including healthy ones such as BBVA, have said that bad debts with property-related businesses in particular could keep rising into the first quarter of 2014.

Many economists believe Spain could return to growth later this year from its deep recession, though the country is still fighting high unemployment.