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Spanish bank stress tests move Madrid closer to bailout

Spanish bank stress tests move Madrid closer to bailout
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An independent audit of Spanish banks has found the country’s troubled lenders would need 59.3 billion euros to stay solvent if there were a serious economic downturn in the country.

After hearing the result of the stress tests, the economy ministry said it would not ask for more than 40 billion euros of the 100 billion lifeline that has been offered by the European Union.

Bank of Spain official Fernando Restoy said: “The capital requirements estimated for the entire system are roughly in line with what had emerged from a more limited audit done in June. This is much less than the total of financial aid available, set out in the Memorandum Of Understanding we have with Brussels.”

The more than 59 billion euros capital shortfall figure is based on the worst case scenario – that is if Spain’s economy shrank by 6.5 percent between now and 2014.

The audit was a necessary steps before Madrid could ask for EU aid, something which the financial markets believe it will have to do sooner rather later and which would trigger a bond-buying programme by the European Central Bank.

About half of the 14 banks that were audited were found to have capital needs in the most part from the bad loans thrown up by the bursting of the property bubble there.

However some of those loans will be transferred into a so-called “bad bank” set up by the government.

The audit identified the bulk of capital needs at the four banks which have already been rescued by the Spanish government.

The worst case is Bankia, the result of an ill-fated, seven-way merger between unlisted savings banks which was taken over by the government earlier this year.

The capital shortfall for these banks is 49 billion euros, with Bankia accounting for half of that.

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