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The Revue d’économie financière devotes this year’s last two issues to European banking systems. In the first issue, the editors have let specialists from various European countries speak, whether they are economists of major institutions (central banks, finance ministries), bankers, or academics. It has asked them to draw up an inventory of the European banking systems, within both the perspective of the consequences of the financial crisis and the perspective of the harmonization of the financial system.
In doing so, this issue takes up the close links between governments and banks. In particular, it proposes to study the banking systems of four European countries (Germany, United Kingdom, Spain, and Italy), demonstrating that there is not one single European banking system, but rather banking systems in Europe. The authors emphasize structural factors that characterize these banking systems: the important role of cooperative banks, the difficulties involved in harmonizing the banking sector, the important role of banks in financing governments, as well as the ineffectiveness of the European monetary market.
Following this main subject, four articles deal with different current economic and financial topics (banking mergers and acquisitions in Europe, the price of residential real estate in France, the impact of ratings announcements on stock investment returns, and the special characteristics of how Basle III has been applied to Islamic banks).
publication : September 2013 326 pages
More than three years since the outbreak of the sovereign debt crisis in the euro area, the banking systems of several countries remain exposed to the vagaries of government bond markets. The paper analyses the different channels through which sovereign risk affects banking risk (and vice versa), presents some new evidence on banks-sovereign links, and discusses policy options to address the related risks.
The changing landscape for European banks influences the future of sovereign borrowing and vice versa. The fates of banks and sovereigns are intertwined, including by toxic feed-back loops between them. The study suggests considering four policy principles or guidelines to weaken the toxic feed-back links between failing financial institutions and sovereigns. The implied efforts to reduce the impact of these adverse feed-back loops are therefore additional drivers of the changing landscape for banks and sovereigns in Europe. Sovereigns also need to address the challenges associated with the reduced role and (capital) commitment of primary dealer banks in both primary and secondary markets for government debt.
The UK banks continued to be affected by both a weak internal business environment in 2012 and the risk of new housing market corrections. Badly shaken by the financial crisis, the UK banking system suffered from losses and writedowns that led the government to implement tremendous public bailouts. The budgetary costs of such public supports persuaded the governmental authorities to rethink the banking supervision architecture and to redefine the national regulatory framework. These interventions certainly contributed to restore the global solvency of the UK banking sector. However, it could not hide the persistent duality concerning the profitability and the soundness between internationally diversified institutions and those rooted in their domestic market and therefore more exposed to developments in the domestic economy. The stricter regulation will impact the banks for a long time and even more, the organisation of the UK financial system.
Although Germany’s banking sector has experienced a wave of consolidation, especially since the financial crisis, the country is still home to a high number of banking institutions. When domestic economic activity was sluggish in the mid-2000s, German banks searched for sources of income abroad; some of them have massively invested in structured products. As a consequence, the financial crisis of 2007-2009 has hit German banks harder than those from other Eurozone countries. The European Commission has played a key role in restructuring the sector, asking in particular that banks which have received state aids strongly reduce their balance sheets – and ordering the liquidation of one of them. Since 2010 the German banking sector has returned to the profit zone and appears more robust thanks to an increase of equity and a reduction of balance sheets. The leverage ratio remains nevertheless significant, profitability remains low in a context of strong competition on the domestic market, and some banks find themselves deeply affected by the crisis of the shipping sector.
Since 2008 the Italian economy has been battered by the most severe and prolonged period of crisis since Second World War. The country, given the high public debt, had no choice but to keep prudent policies aiming at a strict control over fiscal deficit. Economic recession and financial fallout from sovereign crisis in Southern Europe negatively impacted the Italian banking system which, nevertheless, has shown remarkable resilience. Beyond cyclical adjustments, the effects of crisis and recession deeply intertwine with long term changes of the Italian banking industry. Reaction to the crisis, Basle III rules and new challenges such as the globalization of manufacturing and the digital revolution will intensify the process of right-sizing bank structures, the search for higher efficiency and a substantial rebalancing within the sources of financing of Italian SMEs.
The harsh shock that the Spanish banking system has undergone recently can not be understood without a brief look at the historical background and the factors that have modelled it throughout the 20th Century. The post civil-war context, the economic policies under Franco’s regime and then the liberalisation stage and the democratic transition allow us to better understand the state of the banking system at the dawn of the 2008 crisis. The changes in the regulatory framework have also played a major role in the development strategies of the Spanish financial entities. Finally, the growth phase at the beginning of the new century, artificially fuelled by a real estate bubble, explains the size of the disaster that led to it bursting. Still in a major restructuring process, new perspectives of the banking system remain unclear.
Historically, savings banks and cooperative banks have played an important role in the financial systems of almost all European countries. However, the wave of financial deregulation, liberalization and privatization in the late 20th century has changed their role and their institutional forms in most European countries. In order to assess these developments, we first characterize savings and cooperative banks by pointing out their former common characteristic features. Then we describe their recent development in different European countries and their performance before and after the financial crisis. As we argue, Germany is unique in so far as only there savings and cooperative banks have maintained most of their traditional features. We then take a look at the relevant changes that have occurred in other European countries. The article concludes with a plea for a re-orientation of EU banking policy in such a way that the diversity of institutional forms of banks in Europe is maintained and even strengthened.
In the United States, companies obtain financing mainly in financial markets, while companies in the euro zone are financed mainly by banks. How have these two models for financing the economy reacted to the crisis? The corporate financing costs increase more with market financing than with bank loans; the availability of corporate financing in 2009 was ensured better by the bond market than by bank loans. We must look also the efficiency of monetary policy depending on the financing model; if monetary policy acts mainly via asset prices, it is more efficient in the United States. The overall assessment is therefore ambiguous, and there is no model for financing the economy without ambiguity upper to the other one.
The financial and sovereign debt crisis has had a lasting impact on the euro money market. A lack of confidence among market participants and pronounced uncertainty have led to segmentation and are seen as impediments to the effective allocation of liquidity. Assessing an ineffective money market and its possible consequences, however, is likely to require more information than is currently available. In this article, I argue that the pre-crisis situation on the money market is not well suited as a benchmark for effectiveness. Insofar as the prevailing circumstances reflected a bubble, a return to such a situation may not be a desirable outcome, and the money market therefore needs to find a new normal environment. Furthermore, as limited information can impair a normalisation and make it more difficult for the central bank to decide on a given course of action, there is a need to establish greater transparency in the money market.
SEPA (Single Euro Payment Area) is a political but also industrial ambition of the European Publics Authorities, relayed by banks, which contributes by various aspects to the European banking harmonization, at least at the ruling level. But, it leaves in the way many essential components for an unified payment economy, and let a feeling of what some people had qualified as « confusion ».
The article lists the main steps in the « long march » of the European Publics Authorities, for twenty years. It attempts to describe the double European ambition, and try to show what was done with the Payment Directives and SEPA, and what stay in the way. But it try also to point the huge gap between the political approach and the operational and industrial dimensions, and suggests that the regulatory constraint is not the only way for unifying the payment market. It seeks to identify means and ways for a win-win progress, for banks and European Publics Authorities.
The crisis in the fall of 2008 represented a radical change in the banking M&A market, not only in terms of transactions volume but also in types of transactions and players (States, restructuring funds…). In a context of financial crisis management and implementation of new regulations (Basel III, MiFID II, AIFM…), European banks have had to implement large-scale measures since 2008 (including deleveraging, recapitalisations including State aid in some cases, cost rationalisations) to improve their solvency, liquidity and profitability.
In a time of economic uncertainty, external growth transactions are not among the priority projects in the banks’ strategic plans. However, an upturn in the European banking M&A market could occur when the strategic and financial interest of these transactions coincides with the search for growth drivers and the stabilisation of the economic and regulatory environment. Some of these transactions might be performed by new players, with a growing role of strategic and financial investors from emerging countries.
From 1998 to 2012, the French housing market is experiencing an upward cycle of exceptional magnitude and duration. After providing some empirical evidence and international comparison, this article discusses the factors that explain such an increase before questioning the possibility of a market downturn and the likely impact.
This paper focuses on differences of reaction of common stock returns to rating announcements for 231 exchange-listed European companies before and during the 2008 financial crisis. These ratings were announced by Standard & Poor’s from July 1 2005 to December 31 2008. The empirical analysis conducted from an event study by type of credit rating announcement shows that these announcements have an almost immediate impact on the stock returns. Depending on the nature of the announcement, we observe that investors construe differently the information content of ratings, especially when it comes to positive announcements. Robustness analysis confirms that rating agencies decisions have little impact on investors in times of crisis.
This paper investigates the characteristics of Islamic banks by comparing them with those of conventional banks. Islamic banks’ depositors are supporting higher risks. This will help to know how various ratios proposed by the Basel III regulatory framework could be amended to be appropriate for Islamic banks. The article shows the difficulties of such a generalization of the international regulation to Islamic banks. By focusing on the risk-adjusted capital ratio and the leverage ratio, which are the only ratios which can be calculated for Islamic banks, we show empirically that Islamic banks are much better capitalized than conventional banks and should more easily comply with the new capital constraints proposed by the Basel III accords.