What’s next for Irish banks?
RTE 1 January 17, 2019 – 09:05:22A big new issue for the Irish banking sector is the introduction of an annual amortisation charge on the loans taken out by the Irish banks in recent years.
This charge was introduced in April 2018 to discourage borrowers from borrowing on the promise of a higher return on their loans, and the banks have been lobbying for an amortised rate for the last five years.
However, this is yet to be implemented.
As we move towards a post-Brexit world, a new report from the Irish Bankers Association (IBAA) suggests that banks will not be able to make the necessary amortisations on their outstanding loans for the coming years, as the Government has set a target of a 50% annualised return for these loans by 2019.
The IBAA estimates that if the government is unable to achieve its target, the Irish Government could have to borrow more to pay for the loans.
“The annualised amortising rate for these amortise bonds will be around 15%, which is well below the statutory threshold of 50%,” the IBAA report states.
However, the report says this would not be sufficient to meet the government’s requirement of an amorphous and un-quantifiable return on the loan portfolio.
The IBRA report states that the Government’s target of 50 % annualised returns for all debt issued in the next five years is still unrealistic.
“This is because the Irish State will not provide the annualised annualised rate of return on all debt for the years 2020 and 2021 as it does not have a target for these years,” the report states, adding that the amortises will be subject to changes in the way the bonds are issued and how the bonds’ maturity is defined.
In recent years, the Government had introduced an annualised cash flow-related amortiser to incentivise Irish banks to make amortizations on their debt.
The aim was to encourage Irish banks and companies to invest in new businesses and invest in infrastructure.
However, as we move into the post-referendum era, the IBRA believes that a new amortisers will be needed for the bond market and the sector.
“The IBBA believes that it is the appropriate time to introduce amortisations for Irish bonds issued prior to 2021, to help stimulate the economy and support the growth of the Irish economy,” the the report notes.
“However, it would be premature to announce the amorts to be introduced, as this would depend on the availability of finance and will require the Government to act in time.”
The IBACA is the Irish Banking Association, which represents the industry in Ireland.
It represents more than 200 of the country’s leading banks and financial institutions.
The Irish Bank’s latest report suggests that it would take about 20 years to get to a 50 % amortisable return on Irish banks’ outstanding debt.
There are also some other issues that have to be addressed as the government looks to pay down the €3.2 trillion ($3.6 trillion) Irish Government debt.
First, the new amorts would need to be approved by the Central Bank, and if this is not achieved, the central bank will be required to print a new €1 trillion coin to pay the bonds back.
“While this is an uncertain prospect, it is possible that a similar mechanism would be used to repay the Irish government’s debt if it were to default, given the economic risks of default,” the bank’s report states in its conclusion.
Furthermore, there is a risk that a large proportion of the €1.5 trillion Irish Government bond maturing in 2021 would be sold before 2021 due to the uncertainty surrounding the Irish bond market, the bank warns.
With this in mind, the question is whether or not the Irish Banks will be able maintain a 60% annualized amortizatioa, which would mean that the banks will have to make up the difference.
The report says that the Irish Governments current target of an average 50% amortizable annualised debt return by 2021 is unrealistic, and suggests that the government should set an objective for this return over the next decade.
“It is therefore imperative that the new bond amortisaion target of 30% by 2020 is achieved.
This will enable the Government and the Irish Financial System to continue to meet its long-term debt obligations and secure a sustainable financial position in the future,” the statement from the IBACAs members states.