May 28, 2018 / 8:01 AM / 3 months ago

New EU bank capital rules favourable for cross-border mergers

PARIS (Reuters) - A new agreement on EU bank capital rules helps lift regulatory obstacles to cross-border bank mergers but further steps are still needed, France’s central bank head said on Monday.

FILE PHOTO: Governor of the Bank of France Francois Villeroy de Galhau in Berlin, Germany, September 23, 2016. REUTERS/Axel Schmidt/File Photo

EU finance ministers reached an agreement on Friday on how to apply new global bank capital rules that overhauled financial regulations after the 2008-2009 global crisis.

As part of the package, Europe’s biggest banks, such as France’s BNP Paribas, would see their exposure to other countries in the bloc to be treated as safer domestic exposure, thus potentially reducing capital surcharge they pay, according to the agreement.

“In 2018, we should continue to continue our efforts to encourage consolidation in the European financial sector,” Bank of France Governor Francois Villeroy de Galhau told journalists.

Since the end of the financial crisis, European banks have largely ignored calls to merge from some central bankers, who think that consolidation would make it easier to transmit monetary policy more evenly across the euro zone.

Villeroy, who is also head of France’s ACPR financial sector regulator, said that the ministers’ agreement on Friday was “a very good step, but we are not there yet”.

He added that the next step should be to focus on quickly setting up a common backstop to prop up the sector’s rescue facility, known as the Single Resolution Fund.

“As soon as the resolution (mechanism) is completed, the environment will be favourable for the emergence of cross-boarder banking and insurance groups, Villeroy said.

Turning to France specifically, Villeroy renewed concerns about surging corporate and household borrowing, which has pushed private-sector debt to record levels.

He added that France’s financial stability council, which includes him and the finance minister, was prepared to take action at a meeting next month, including by requiring banks to hold extra capital.

Villeroy said the point was not to rein in borrowing, but rather to ensure banks had enough capital available to keep lending should the credit cycle take a turn for the worst in the future.

Reporting by Maya Nikolaeva and Matthieu Protard, Editing by Leigh Thomas

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