Karlo Kauko, 22 May 2020

Many observers have had a sceptical attitude towards Chinese banks’ official disclosures of non-performing loans. A loan should be classified non-performing if the customer stops servicing the loan. Therefore, hidden problems in the loan portfolio would manifest themselves as a suspiciously low interest revenue. Using this simple idea, this column sheds light on the likely distribution of hidden non-performing loans in Chinese banks. It finds that loan quality problems became more commonplace in 2016. Surprisingly, hidden NPLs seem more common in strongly capitalised banks and large banks, but also in banks that rely on interbank funding.

Patrizia Baudino, Raihan Zamil, 30 September 2019

Non-performing assets are a double-edged sword. On the one hand, they often trigger episodes of financial crises. On the other, once a crisis erupts, market participants must have confidence in banks’ reported asset quality metrics in order to regain faith in the financial system. This column shows that accounting standards and prudential frameworks to identify and measure non-performing assets vary widely across countries. This presents a challenge for comparing credit risk across banks and countries, for which the column proposes a range of policy options. 

Giorgio Barba Navaretti, Giacomo Calzolari, Alberto Pozzolo, 06 July 2017

There is a growing awareness that non-performing loans generate risks of financial instability and constrain lending growth, and that coordinated action to solve the problem in Europe is both necessary and achievable. This column discusses proposals for state-supported vehicles, such as asset management companies, put forward by the main international organisations and prominent scholars to deal with the large backlog of non-performing loans. Part of this backlog will be resolved through market-based solutions, but due to market failures and capital shortages of critical banks, state-supported schemes are also deemed necessary.

Maria Balgova, Alexander Plekhanov, 18 November 2016

The major increase in the volume of non-performing loans as a result of the recent financial crisis was predictable, but the persistence of this bad debt is a cause for concern. Using a sample of 100 countries, this column compares economic outcomes in three different scenarios following a rise in non-performing loans. Reducing these loans has an unambiguously positive medium-term effect, with countries that experience an influx of fresh credit growing the fastest. Allowing high levels of non-performing loans to persist, on the other hand, can cost more than two percentage points of economic growth annually.

Paul McGhee, Julio Suarez, Gary Simmons, 29 April 2016

The European Commission aims to propose new legislative on business insolvency by the end of 2016. This column presents new research that seeks to quantify the impact of improving EU-wide insolvency regimes. It suggests that improving insolvency regimes could reduce corporate bond spreads by 18 to 37 basis points, expand EU GDP by 0.3% to 0.55% over the long term, and increase employment by 0.6 to 1.2 million new jobs. A number of proposals for targeted harmonisation are also outlined. 

Shekhar Aiyar, Anna Ilyina, Andreas Jobst, 05 November 2015

European banks are struggling with high levels of non-performing loans. This column explores the channels through which persistently high non-performing loans hold down credit growth and economic activity. A survey of EU authorities and banks reveals that the loans are not written-off for a variety of deep-seated reasons, including legal and tax code issues. An agenda is proposed comprising tightened bank supervision, structural bankruptcy reforms, and the development of markets for distressed assets.

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