Greece: Italian banks reassuring, we are hardly exposed

3.2 bln at end of 2011; but Fitch warns of insurance risks

25 May, 14:18

(ANSAmed) - ROME, MAY 24 - As governments and central banks prepare to face the consequences of Greece's potential exit from the eurozone, Italian bankers are trying to reassure savers, claiming that Italian banks are not particularly exposed on the Greek market.

The exposure of Italian banks towards Greece "is not significant", said the president of the Italian Banking Agency (ABI), Giuseppe Mussari. The chief executive of Unicredit, Federico Ghizzoni, meanwhile, has said that "the Italian banking sector is among the most immunized" if Greece exits the eurozone. Italian banks "effectively have no exposure towards Greece," Ghizzoni added. "It is more a question of volatility on the markets, which has a direct impact". But the Unicredit boss added that institutes are nevertheless bracing themselves because "the market expects everyone to reason in this way". In this context, the deputy Finance Minister, Vittorio Grilli, said that "we must always be ready for all outcomes", adding that the financial and monetary markets have an "awareness of the risks and problems" involved at the moment.

The latest figures by the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) show that at the end of 2011, Italian banks had exposure (both direct and indirect) of around 3.2 billion euros, a fall on the previous quarter, and a share of under 2 billion euros held by insurance firms. The figure is some way from their counterparts in France (39 billion), Germany (13 billion) and the UK (17 billion).

Intesa SanPaolo had previously attempted to devalue its exposure (consisting of government bonds, Hellenic Railway shares guaranteed by the state and credits) in 2011 and, at March 31, after the partial swap of old shares against new ones issued by Athens, the nominal value stood at 445 million euros, with 93 million recorded on the budget. Unicredit's overall exposure at the end of March had a budget value of 54 million euros (28 million of which among the financial activities held for negotiation and those assessed at fair value). Positions on credit derivatives, the bank has said, are essentially balanced.

Generali's exposure has now been reduced, after a series of changes and agreements on a swap, to a level of 243 million euros. The exposure of Fonsai, Banco Popolare, Mediobanca and MPS is even lower or almost non-existent.

But while the banks appear to be safe, the insurance sector in Italy, but also in Spain, is more exposed to the impact of a Greek exit from the eurozone, according to the ratings agency Fitch, which has hinted that the contagion effect could have an impact on Italian and Spanish shares and on banks as well as having an effect on their ratings. The German and British insurance sectors, meanwhile, appear more covered. (ANSAmed).

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