Largest Austrian Bank Crashes After “Revealing” 40% Surge In Bad Debt Provisions, Record Loss
Austria’s largest bank by assets, and the third biggest bank in Eastern Europe after UniCredit and Raiffeisen, announced that, oops, its earlier forecast about the amount of bad loans on its books is wrong, and will have to rise by a massive 40%, leading to what will be a record $2.2 billion loss, and triggering writedowns.
Shareholders, not used to being told the truth and instead preferring sweet, little lies, promptly took the stock to the woodshed.
Analysts, whose job it is to predict these things, were shocked:”This is a clearly bad surprise as it comes in addition to the already ‘badly surprising’ warning issued by the group at the beginning of this year,” Natixis Securities SAS analyst Steven Gould said in a note to clients. “These announcements hurt the management’s credibility going forward.”
What was the catalyst for the early recognition of the massive writedown? Bloomberg explains:
The provisions are caused by new rules due to be approved by Parliament in Hungary today, forcing banks to refund “unfair” loan fees, and by the Romanian central bank’s push for faster bad-debt reduction amid the European Central Bank’s bank health check, Erste said. Writedowns on goodwill and deferred tax assets, triggered by the loan-loss provisions, may reach as much as 1 billion euros.
“By taking these measures, we have done everything in our power to avoid one-off effects from 2015 onward,” Chief Executive Officer Andreas Treichl said in the statement. “We are convinced that these measures will also help us pass the asset-quality review and stress test comfortably.”
Hungary contributed to Erste’s loss with a new law forcing it to repay some loan costs to customers. New rules due to be approved by Parliament in Budapest today will require banks to refund certain expenses on as much as 6.5 trillion forint ($28 billion) of loans going back as far as 10 years, according to the draft bill.
Higher bad-debt provisions in Romania, the Black Sea country of 20 million where Erste bought Banca Comerciala Romana SA for 3.75 billion euros in 2005, were caused by the central bank’s pressure on banks to clean up their balance sheets as part of the ECB’s bank health check, Erste said.