Spain needs less money for recapitalizing its banks than widely believed, International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal published Thursday.
"The number is lower than what was feared initially by the European and by the Spaniards," Lagarde told the Journal.
"The expectation is that it is going to be much closer to the IMF financial sector assessment forecast than the 100 billion euros ($130 billion) that was put on the table as a broad cushion for restructuring of the Spanish banking sector," she said.
In June the IMF estimated the needs of the banks, which have dragged the government's finances into deep difficulties, would be about 40 billion euros.
Spain's banks, saddled with massive bad loans from the collapse of the country's real estate sector, are being propped up by a lifeline of capital from the government and liquidity from the European Central Bank.
Spain is hoping that they can be recapitalized directly from the new eurozone bailout fund, the European Stabilization Mechanism, a move the IMF has backed to help lower the debt burden of of the government.
However, this depends on a separate race against time to conclude tough talks on updated rules governing new EU-wide bank supervision by the turn of the year.
Casting doubt on meeting that deadline, on Friday German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said he saw no prospect of Spanish banks getting ESM recapitalization before the end of January.