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Euro Bank Bailout 2.0: SocGen & Unicredit Teetering On 'Brink Of Collapse'

Published: August 8, 2011
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Source: Daily Mail

Fears are growing this weekend that two of Europe’s largest banks may require a bailout, having been hugely damaged by the worsening crisis across the eurozone.

In France, President Nicolas Sarkozy is having to confront the possibility that the country’s second-biggest bank, Societe Generale -commonly known as SocGen - is on the brink of disaster after huge losses over loans made to Greece.

The chilling possibility of the largest bank in Italy, UniCredit Banca, suffering a similar collapse if a bailout is not implemented comes as Silvio Berlusconi already faces an increasingly dangerous national economic situation.

In Britain, a senior Government source described the position of the two banks as ‘perilous’, although an official Treasury spokesman declined to comment. Should either bank collapse, British customers with deposits of up to about £85,000 would be protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme.

The merest hint a major bank might fall is likely to reignite panic tomorrow in the stock market, which is already feared to react badly to the credit downgrade of the U.S. by rating agency Standard & Poor’s.

Last night Chancellor George Osborne, whose Treasury officials have ‘war-gamed’ various scenarios ahead of the markets opening, was due to discuss the crisis with Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

SocGen reported a loss of £350million on Greek debt last week. It has a total of £2.2billion of Greek debt and also owns 88 per cent of the Greek bank Geniki, whose value has collapsed in recent months.

For Italy, damage to UniCredit, in which Barclays has a two per cent share, would be a bitter blow. Its strategy of caution has led it to invest heavily in Italian government bonds which were until recently seen as safe, but as these have come under pressure the bank’s shares have plummeted.

Experts fear that if any single bank is seen to be in trouble, all lending could freeze up in the resultant climate of fear, with devastating consequences.

As ministers of the G7 nations - Britain, France, Italy, Germany, Japan, the U.S. and Canada - prepare to meet to discuss the mounting euro crisis, the French and Italian governments are believed to be standing ready to rescue the banking giants.

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