Assurances given, but tensions looming ahead

by Antonis D. Papagiannidis

Both debt servicers who have been loading up with Greek banks’ NPLs and the systemic banks themselves who still keep dud loans on their books (but are also participating in SVPs established in successive efforts to offload such loans) have been volunteering assurances to the Greek Government that they are in no way planning to call loans – especially those involving, directly or indirectly, family homes or small-business establishments.

Such assurances were also given in the past; but, this time round, some sort of added nervousness seems to have crept in the behaviour of banks and servicers. The trigger factor may well be the media attention raised by the nearing cut-off date (end April) after which the protection offered throughout the Greek financial crisis years to politically sensitive groups of debtors (where main family residences are involved) will be diminished radically. Memories of seething crowds in the first years of the Greek crisis, but also recollection of upheavals in Spain when auctioning of family homes led to waves of evictions are concentrating the minds – both of politicians and of bankers/servicers. The latter do not just face bad Press; they realize that the monitoring of their performance by Government services over the packaged loans they have acquired from the banks can get unpleasant at times.

So, for now, everybody tries to get things moving with the minimum of friction. Problem is, expectations have been rising that hefty debt cuts will be offered to debtors – but such moves do not seem forthcoming. A tense period looms further down the road.