European banks have accumulated a record number of loans for which repayment is highly uncertain. A study by a renowned auditing group says the situation is particularly precarious in the southern eurozone nations.
The total value of toxic loans in European banks has doubled since the outbreak of the global financial crisis in 2008, auditing company PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) reported on Wednesday. It said lenders on the continent currently held non-performing loans to the tune of 1.05 trillion euros ($1.85 trillion), not knowing how much of would ever be paid back by debtors.
The situation appeared worst in the eurozone's southern European nations which had been worst hit by a bursting real-estate bubble and the ensuing debt crisis, PwC claimed.
In Greece alone, the nominal value of toxic credits rose by almost 50 percent to 40 billion euros last year, compared with 2010 levels. Spain saw a 2011 rise in bad loans by 23 percent to reach 136 billion euros, while neighboring Italy logged a 37-percent increase to 107 billion euros.
Loans hard to get rid off
"The poor economic development in southern Europe led to more payment defaults last year, and that was to be expected," PwC's Markus Burghardt said in a statement.
The report indicated that Germany's lenders were stuck with the biggest individual amount of bad loans, equivalent to 196 billion euros. But Germany joined lenders in Britain and France, whose toxic credits had not increased since 2010.
European lenders have generally been facing problems to sell non-performing loans to customers. This has meant that banks across the continent have had to make bigger annual provisions which have weighed down on their net profit.