French banks cut lending by $200 billion in fourth quarter - BIS
LONDON (Reuters) - French banks cut their overseas lending by almost $200 billion (130 billion pounds) in the final quarter of last year, adding to an even sharper retreat in the previous three months and highlighting the scale of their loan pull-back, international lending data show.
The Bank for International Settlements (BIS), which charts cross-border borrowing around the world, said French banks cut their cross-border lending by $197 billion in the fourth quarter, or 5.3 percent.
That followed an even steeper drop of 7.1 percent in the previous quarter, the sharpest fall by French banks for at least 12 years, the BIS said.
BNP Paribas (BNPP.PA), Societe Generale (SOGN.PA) and others in France and around Europe are shrinking their loan books to meet tougher rules on capital requirements. But the pace of shrinking, or "deleveraging", is raising concern it will choke off Europe's recovery attempts.
Global lending by banks fell $799 billion in the fourth quarter, or 2.5 percent, the biggest fall since the drop seen after the collapse of U.S. investment bank Lehman Brothers three years ago, the BIS data show.
It was led by deleveraging by banks based in the euro zone, which cut lending by $584 billion in the fourth quarter, or 4.7 percent.
In addition to the French lending retreat, there were also steep drops by banks in Spain ($35 billion, or 5.3 percent), Germany ($181 billion, or 4.7 percent) and Italy ($32 billion, or 3.5 percent), the BIS data show.
Most of the contraction was in lending to other banks, which accounted for $637 billion of the global decline, as international banks cut loans to banks in the euro zone. Lending to companies and other non-banks dropped by $162 billion.
(Reporting by Steve Slater, Editing by David Cowell)
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