Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Banks Face 10-Day Debt Time Bomb

Britain's biggest banks could be forced to cough up as much as £70bn over the next 10 days, as the credit crisis that has seized the global financial system sparks a fresh wave of chaos.

Almost 20 per cent of the short-term money market loans issued by European banks are due to mature between September 11 and September 19. Senior bankers fear that they will have to refinance almost all of these debts with funds from their own coffers, putting a further strain on bank balance sheets.

Tens of billions of pounds of these commercial paper loans have already built up in the financial system, because fear-ridden investors no longer want to buy them. Roughly £23bn of these loans expire on September 17 alone.

Fears of this impending call on bank credit lines are the true reason that lending between banks has ground to a halt, according to senior money market sources.

Banks have been stockpiling cash in preparation for this "double rollover" week, which sees quarterly loans expire alongside shorter term debts - exacerbating a problem that lies at the heart of the credit crisis.

"Banks are hoarding cash," said David Brickman, the head of European credit strategy at Lehman Brothers. "We think the reason for that is the commercial paper markets. There was $100bn of commercial paper issued by European institutions that was scheduled to roll over in August, much of which struggled to do so.

"Those markets are just not functioning normally, so some debt has already come on to bank balance sheets and more will have to follow. We estimate that between September 11 and 19 $139bn [£68.5bn] of European commercial paper [will come] up for renewal, including monthly and quarterly maturities. That's why banks are hoarding cash."...

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