PARIS (Reuters) - The European Central Bank has 50 billion euros ($65.7 billion) in asset-backed securities based on loans to small and mid-sized firms and could take on more in the right conditions, ECB Executive Board member Benoit Coeure said on Monday.
Small and mid-sized enterprises (SMEs), especially in southern Europe, are struggling to get financing with banks more risk-wary than usual in the face of the euro zone's debt crisis and deep recessions in many countries.
Speaking at a conference in Paris, Coeure said that ECB had already since last year taken on asset-backed securities (ABS) that pool together loans to SME in a measure aimed at helping such firms.
"On our balance sheet, we've got about 50 billion euros in ABS based on pools of SME loans," he said. "We've got about 50 billion euros - before the haircuts - in direct claims on non-financial companies."
That figure compares with a total of 338 billion euros of ABS posted as collateral at the ECB at the end of the first quarter.
Coeure said the ECB could take on more ABS based on SME loans depending on the risk and transparency of the underlying loans making them up. "Then the European Central Bank will also take that into account in its collateral policy," he added.
In a major headache for the ECB, its record-low interest rates are barely reflected in the rates Spanish or Italian banks charge businesses for loans, a big handicap for countries which are striving to escape from recessions.
Data this month showed borrowing costs rose further in April for small businesses in Italy and Spain, while the amount banks in those countries lent to local firms declined. ($1 = 0.7612 euros)
Reporting by Leigh Thomas; editing by Ron Askew