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Swiss franc loans raise eyebrows among Romanian bankers

de V.O.
Miercuri, 2 iulie 2008, 19:41 English | Business

The Romanian Commercial Bank (BCR) has refused to offer loans in Swiss francs because this practice is "irresponsible" in Romania, former chief executive of the bank Manfred Wimmer said, commenting that this was one of the reasons for which BCR has been losing ground. Wimmer showed that BCR lost part of its market share because it did not agree with high risk transactions such as loans for local authorities and credits in Swiss francs.

He said BCR decided not to compete with small banks looking to boost their market share and by not providing loans in Swiss francs the bank lost. The BCR market share has diminished constantly for the past two years, from 26% to 24%, as more and mor banks offer credits in Swiss francs and Japanese yen given that the listed interest is smaller than for loans in euro or Romanian RON.

According to Romania's National Bank (BNR) statistics, some 11% - or 2.38 billion euro - of the total volume of loans for individual clients are made in exotic currencies.

BNR officials have repeatedly shown concern about the commercial banks increasing availability to provide loans in Swiss francs, with governor Mugur Isarescu saying that such moves lead to increasing currency risks as the Swiss franc is a currency of refuge traditionally in less stable periods of time.

The BNR position is also supported by Patrick Gelin, the head of BRD SocGen, another major Romanian bank, who said that in his opinion Swiss franc loans are "an insanity" because of their high risks. The opinion is not shared by Volksbank CEO Gerald Schreiner, who said such loans are not risky because interests connected to this currency have not been fluctuating significantly in Romania for the past five years.

Romanian banks or branches such as Bancpost, Banca Romaneasca, Credit Europe Bank, Garanti Bank, Millenium Bank, OTP Bank, Piraeus Bank, Raiffeisen Bank and Volksbank include Swiss franc loans in their offers.

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