Societe Generale, France's second-largest bank that came under huge speculative pressure following the long term debt downgrade by Moody's last month, said yesterday that its exposure to European debt is within manageable limits.
"We are adequately capitalised to deal with the situation. We have a low, declining and manageable sovereign exposure of €4.3 billion (Dh21 billion) to GIIPS [Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Spain]," Daniel Truchi, chief executive of the bank's wealth management division, said in Dubai yesterday.
The bank official insisted that it does not require any additional funding to deal with European exposures.
"There is nothing happening on the asset sales front. We did sell some of our legacy assets worth €3.5 billion in the third quarter. This is part of a medium term process to shrinking the balance sheet," he said.
Truchi said that the bank's exposure to European sovereign debt is well below its peers and it represents less than one per cent of the bank's consolidated balance sheet.
European banks, particularly some of the large French banks, have been facing rising borrowing costs due to deterioration in market confidence as they have large balance sheets and significant wholesale liquidity needs across different currencies.
The cost of insuring the debt of France's three biggest banks rose yesterday, with Societe Generale up 32 basis points to 384, Credit Agricole 24 basis points higher at 287 and BNP Paribas up 23 basis points to 286, according to CMA prices.
Truchi said his visit to Dubai is purely focused on the private banking business. The bank manages more than €86 billion worth of assets for more than 80,000 clients worldwide. The Middle East region accounts for about 9 per cent of its total assets under management (AUM).
Despite the economic turmoil in Europe, Truchi said there has been little impact on redemptions or fund outflows from its wealth management business.
"Contrary to the perception we have seen an increase in our AUM, especially from Asia," he said.
The private banking business, according to him has met all its targets this year and sees opportunities for acquisitions in Europe.
"We are on the lookout for acquisition opportunities in Europe. Valuations look very attractive and we expect some banks may consider disposing of private banking and corporate banking units as part of shrinking their balance sheets," Truchi said.
Contrary to its staff reduction in some countries as part of cost control, Societe Generale said it is expanding its private banking team size in the Middle East.
The bank yesterday said it has made four senior appointments recently as part of its expansion plans for the region. Based in Dubai, the newly appointed bankers will support a team of bankers based in Geneva, London, Luxemburg and Monaco.