LONDON: All of Monte dei Paschi’s capital was wiped out in a European Union stress test of banks on Friday as the Italian lender headed for government-sponsored merger talks with domestic peer UniCredit, whose own score fell short of the sector’s aggregate performance.
The exercise by the European Banking Authority showed that EU banks took a 265 billion euro ($314.7 billion) hit in a test of their resilience to economic shocks, which still left them with two-thirds of their buffers intact.
The EBA tested the resilience of 50 top lenders to economic shocks, though there is no formal pass or fail mark. The banks account for 70% of EU banking assets.
Under the harshest scenario spanning three years to 2023, which baked in a prolonged fallout from COVID, the aggregate core ratio of capital to risk-weighted assets fell by nearly 500 basis points, pushing the ratio down to 10.2% from 15%.
Monte dei Paschi, however, ended the test with a core capital ratio of minus 0.1% under the adverse scenario, the worst performer. UniCredit came in at 9.59%.
Monte dei Paschi said it would have had a core ratio of 6.6% after its proposed 2.5 billion euro capital increase. The bank had also fared worst in the EU’s stress test five years ago, in a sign of how deep-rooted problems at the world’s oldest bank have yet to be sorted out.
None of the other Italian banks tested - Mediobanca, Banco BPM and Intesa Sanpaolo - reached the 10% sector aggregate though several were very close.
HSBC’s French arm was the next worse performer after Monte dei Paschi, with a score of 5.91%. HSBC agreed last month to sell it to Cerberus-backed My Money Group.
Sweden’s banks were all above 10%, with Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken at 17.4%
Investment banks Deutsche Bank and Societe Generale, in the midst of turnarounds, both performed below average under the adverse scenario, with scores of 7.56% and 7.73%, respectively. BNP Paribas came in at 8.28%, with Commerzbank at 8.52%.
“This outcome is all the more encouraging because the strong profit growth we delivered in the first half of 2021 is not reflected in this exercise,” said Deutsche’s chief financial officer, James von Moltke.
Just one of four Spanish banks tested, Bankinter, was above 10%.
The results of the tests, which were delayed from last year due to COVID-19, are seen as critical to banks resuming dividend payouts, which were barred during the pandemic in order to conserve capital.