Now that the Greek debt contagion has claimed its first victim, some are already asking who will follow the footsteps of the failed Franco-Belgian bank, Dexia.
Societe General, itself subject of doubts about its solvency, recommended on Monday that investors buy protection against Barclays debt saying that the bank may not be able to get required capital under Basel III rules.
Then the same doubts could be turned at SocGen, just as some have questioned Morgan Stanley today.
UKs Telegraph correspondent yesterday noted that “RBS and Lloyds Banking Group could require some additional form of state support within the next six months.”
To this list we could add banks that are heavily exposed to the eastern European market where borrowers, like the ones in Hungary, loaded up on foreign denominated debt so as their currency is depreciating the debt payment and the principal is weighing heavy. There are some $100 billion in franc-denominated loans floating the Eastern danger and dominant in this field are Austrian banks.
All this is symptomatic of the unveiling of a banking panic because increasing number of financial players have increasing doubts about the solvency others.
Of course, the ECB would have us believe that all of this is about liquidity but when the stock prices of some of these major financials are approaching zero, so is the ratio of capital to assets – basic measure of solvency.
“It seems that the increasing risk aversion is now related to the solvency of banks, not liquidity, which is abundant,” said Barclays Capital rate strategist Giuseppe Maraffino.
“There are serious concerns about the solvency of European banks,” said Louise Cooper, markets analyst at BGC Partners in London.
“These concerns about solvency have created a liquidity crisis – European banks are having difficulties borrowing, both short and long term. If banks cannot borrow for themselves, then they are highly reluctant to lend to others which results in a credit crunch,” Cooper said.
Greece still hasn’t officially defaulted yet so much trouble already.