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欧洲亟需更大规模的救助

Cyrus Sanati 2011年10月19日

市场最终将不得不考虑欧洲救助基金耗尽后将会出现什么局面。如果欧洲金融稳定基金未能实现扩容,可能将加进一步深市场焦虑情绪,使欧洲重新回到起点。

    摆在桌面上的第一个问题是希腊及其未偿债务。今年夏天,多家银行和欧洲人终于无奈地同意将希腊债务余额净现值削减21%,但这一比例现在看来还远远不够。由于经济低迷,希腊根本无力按计划偿付债务。知情人士称,欧洲领导人们现在正在讨论是否将希腊的减债幅度提高到50-60%。还有说法是干脆将减值的希腊债券换成EFSF发行的面值低一些的新债券。

    两项策略都遭到欧洲银行业的竭力反对。作为这些有毒债务的大债主们,银行业反对进一步减免希腊的债务,因为此举可能损害银行的清偿能力。希腊当然只是冰山一角。从第一天开始就有担忧,担心一旦市场接受对希腊进行大规模救助,将引发多米诺效应,银行业将不得不减免所有欧元区边缘国家的债务。银行业将进一步减免债务的说法一出,市场早已开始推低一家银行的股价,即德克夏银行(Dexi)。由于货币市场风声鹤唳令其短期资金吃紧,这家法国-比利时银行上周被迫寻求大规模的政府救助。

    但相比德意志银行(Deutsche Bank)和法国兴业银行(Societe Generale),德克夏银行就不值一提了。这两家银行持有的政府和商业债务都远远高于德克夏银行,同时还面临着同样的短期资金紧张。银行担心任何迫使它们削减主权债务的政府行动都会在市场中引发新一轮抛售,拖低所有欧洲银行股。

    欧洲领导人们相信如果强制银行业将资产中的现金比例从当前最低5%提高至9%,信心将能得到恢复。因为更强大的缓冲机制有利于银行消化进一步削减主权债务带来的压力,化解市场对其清偿能力的疑虑。

    银行业显然不愿意。德意志银行的首席执行官约瑟夫•阿克曼上周称,强制银行业增加资本金会起到反作用,投资者将很难接受进一步削减希腊债务。阿克曼不快的原因很明显。因为迫使银行削减希腊债务,同时要求它们持有更多现金,将从两头挤压银行的资产负债表。

大型银行困境

    为了避免进一步的损失,解决这场危机,欧洲需要最终拿出他们的现金火箭炮,向欧元区银行体系输血。EFSF之前的扩容是为了满足欧元区边缘成员国的财政资金需求,因为它们在非公开市场中进行债务融资的难度日益增大。然而,目前EFSF的授权和规模都需要扩大,涵盖向银行注资的任务。

    如果放任不管,银行业可能会通过缩减贷款来提高资本充足率,而不是折价发行新股或出售资产。这会损害早已疲弱的欧洲经济。为了避免这样的局面,在迫使银行业减免债务的同时,需要向银行业注入现金。此举表面上会将所有不良债务从银行转移至政府手中。政府只能寄希望于银行业日后能以现金偿还,但这一点可没保证。

    First on deck is dealing with Greece and its outstanding debt. The 21% haircut on the net present value of Greek bonds outstanding, which was painfully agreed to by the banks and the Europeans earlier this summer, appears to be woefully inadequate. Greece simply cannot afford to meet its debt obligations under the plan given its depressed economy. A haircut of 50% to 60% is now being debated among European leaders, according to people familiar with the situation. There is also talk of simply exchanging the impaired Greek bonds with new bonds issued by the EFSF bailout fund, which would have lower face values.

    Both strategies have European banks up in arms. As large holders of the toxic debt, the banks are opposed to further write downs as it could jeopardize their solvency. Greece is of course just the tip of the iceberg. From day one there was fear that once the market relents to a large Greek bailout a domino effect would occur, forcing the banks to take massive haircuts on all their peripheral euro zone debt holdings. The markets have already pummeled the shares of one bank, Dexia, over talk of further write-downs for the banks. The Franco-Belgian bank was forced last week to seek a massive government bailout as it saw its short-term funding pulled by jittery money market funds.

    But Dexia is small fries compared to the big European banks like Germany's Deutsche Bank (DB) and France's Societe Generale. Those banks hold far more government and commercial debt than Dexia, while being exposed to the same short term funding limitations. The banks fear that any government action, which would force them to slice their sovereign debt holdings, would prompt another sell off in the markets, dragging down every last European bank.

    The European leaders believe that confidence could be restored by forcing the banks to increase their cash on hand from a current minimum of 5% of their assets to 9%. The larger cushion would allow the banks to absorb greater haircuts on their sovereign debt holdings and deflect market skepticism as to their solvency.

    The banks are obviously not happy about this. Joseph Ackermann, the head of Deutsche Bank, said last week that forcing the banks to boost capital would be counterproductive and that it would be tough for investors to accept further haircuts on their Greek debt. It's clear why Ackermann is so upset. Forcing the banks to cut the value of their Greek holdings, while at the same time requiring them to hold on to more of their cash, is hitting the banks' balance sheet from both ends.

Big bank fix

    To stop the bleeding and firmly resolve this crisis, the Europeans need to finally get out their cash bazooka and spray down the euro zone's banking system. The EFSF was expanded to meet the fiscal funding needs of peripheral euro zone members, which were having a hard time raising debt in the private markets. The EFSF's mandate and size need to be expanded to include bank recapitalization.

    Left on their own, the banks would probably choose to cut back on lending to boost their capital as opposed to issuing new equity or selling assets at fire sale prices. That would hurt an already weak European economy. To avoid this outcome, the banks need to be injected with cash at the same time they are forced to write down the value of their bad debt. The move would ostensibly move all the bad debt from the banks to the government. Over time, it is hoped that the banks pay will pay back the cash, but there is no guarantee they will.

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