EU sees positive outcome on Spanish bank fund

January 18, 2010

(Adds more quotes, background)

BRUSSELS, Jan 18 (Reuters) – The European Commission said on Monday it was confident of issuing a positive decision on a Spanish government scheme to help crisis-hit banks avert any solvency problems.

Spain set up the 9-billion-euro ($13 billion) bank restructuring fund (FROB) in June last year, allowing lenders to borrow up to 90 billion euros, in a move that may spur consolidation among the country’s savings banks.

Three savings banks from northern Spain agreed last week to postpone plans to merge until the European Union’s executive Commission had ratified the FROB restructuring plan.

The Commission, tasked with ensuring that state aid does not skew competition in the 27-country EU, is in constructive discussions with the Spanish authorities over the plan, spokesman Jonathan Todd told a daily briefing.

“The Spanish authorities have to clarify what their intentions are,” he said, adding that while there was no fundamental problem, the Commission had to ensure that the scheme complied with EU state aid rules.

“The Commission is confident that we will be able to come to a positive outcome on the regime.”

The 45 largely unlisted savings banks in Spain have been hit badly by the slump in the country’s property sector after a decade-long boom and have some of the highest non-performing loan ratios in the financial sector. (Reporting by Foo Yun Chee, additional reporting by Paul Day in Madrid; editing by Dale Hudson)

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