BNP Paribas, Societe Generale, Credit Agricole and Groupe BPCE, France's biggest banks, are struggling to fund about €37 billion (Dh177.6 billion) of debt payments due in the first quarter.
As their access to US dollar short-term funds dries, and faced with soaring costs in the bond market, French lenders are raising money by selling their debt through structured products and issuing bonds backed by mortgages on properties in Paris and regions including Cote-d'Azur, the French Riviera playground of the rich. They may also tap the three-year European Central Bank facility, which opened yesterday.
"It's gotten harder and harder to get refinancing on the markets, and as time goes by rating agencies are taking negative actions, pushing up already high funding costs," said Jacques-Pascal Porta, who helps manage €500 million at Ofi Gestion Privee in Paris and owns BNP Paribas shares.
French banks' credit ratings were cut this month by Moody's Investors Service, which cited funding constraints and a worsening European debt crisis. Their ability to raise money is limited by their public and private debt holdings in the five countries at the heart of Europe's crisis which as of June were the world's biggest at $681 billion.
Article continues below
Also, with France's AAA rating at risk, the state may find it hard to aid them like it did when Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc's collapse sparked a crisis in 2008.
European banks overall will have about €300 billion of redemptions in senior debt and covered bonds in the first three months, the most in the past two years and the highest quarterly amount in 2012, according to Barclays Capital estimates.
BNP Paribas has €15.7 billion coming due between January and March, or about half of its annual redemptions, while Societe Generale, the second-largest, has €6.6 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.