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Romanian central bank governor, Mugur Isarescu, said last week that many banks have not changed their businesses to help companies and have continued to focus on consumer loans and mortgages, which are easier to sell, although Romanians have become more indebted.
The governor reckons the Romanian debtor has matured and will think twice before taking out a loan, unlike during the lending boom in the 2007-2008 period that was built on consumer loans.
“The Romanian population is quite indebted. The fact that people are not taking on even more debt and that there isn’t any demand for credit may irritate those who make a living from the consumer credit business and from the stimulation of consumption through it,” said the governor.
A recovery for lending in Romania depends on credit becoming cheaper and on the existence of resources for lending, according to the governor. He said that the local subsidiaries of foreign banks – which represent over 80 percent of the banking system – have been going through a deleveraging process in the past two years. The loan-to-deposit ratio has fallen from 180 percent to 120 percent.
The central bank decided last week to maintain the key interest rate unchanged at 5.25 percent, in a key move designed to boost lending to the private sector, while promoting domestic savings.
A survey published by the National Bank of Romania in November suggested that loan demand from companies has grown at a moderate pace in the third quarter. Fewer Romanian took out mortgages, while consumer credit demand has leveled off.
Banks estimated a further toughening of mortgage lending conditions in the fourth quarter, while consumer credit loan standards would remain unchanged.
“Many of the Romanian banks have remained anchored in consumer credit, which is granted more easily, and mortgages, and they haven’t developed their capacity to lend to the entrepreneurial sector,” said the governor.
Isarescu added that trade finance and project finance are harder to do and banks need to carefully assess the risks and find the right experts, as “a simple vendor is not enough”.
The central bank’s expectation of economic growth is in line with the IMF forecast of 1.6 percent of GDP this year.
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