The Basel Committee’s Bruising Balance Sheet Shaft

By: admin

Banking industry associations representing and working in emerging economies have intensified criticism of Basel Committee credit, trading and operating risk proposals as detrimental with their limited supplemental capital market reliance. The Institute for International Finance in a September paper singled out the standard approach replacing internal ratings system as overly rigid in its unintended “downstream impact “on trade finance, corporate borrowing and hedging, and infrastructure, although it also contains pro-active provisions on house loans and other areas which are beneficial. Export credit is estimated at $10 trillion annually and is low-risk as a collateralized, self-liquidating product, but the regulators’ so-called conversion factor drawn from external agency ratings may raise counterparty  percent weightings by triple-digits, according to an International Chamber of Commerce study. Companies depend on banks rather than bond markets, which are thin and illiquid even for big countries like Brazil, Turkey, Mexico and India where the turnover ratio is barely 0.1 percent. Foreign lenders have been steadily retrenching the past decade, with their share of total banking assets down to 15 percent from 25 percent at the peak. Borrowers outside Latin America “typically” lack external credit ratings and are thus subject to 100 percent set aside under the draft Basel formula, which also applies for the first time to subsidiaries of large consolidated groups with holdings over EUR 50 billion. Unhedged foreign currency facilities carry a further 50 percent charge without proof of revenue streams in that unit. Emerging market derivatives are more costly under the model since they are uncollateralized and require additional information technology outlays that may be prohibitive. Infrastructure as an asset class falls under the Specialized Lending category with “adverse treatment” that fails to account for individual transaction features and historically low default rates.  Often official credit agencies offer guarantees and other risk mitigation and financing structures have ample equity and senior debt safety cushions, the IIF argues.

On sovereign bonds the G-20 has been debating separately a framework for GDP-linked instruments, which would allow developing economies to deleverage with public debt levels at their highest since the 1980s amid volatile and declining growth. The central banks of Argentina and Canada presented a joint review for the Hangzhou China summit, and Germany as next year’s host agreed to keep the idea on the agenda. The authors note as in Argentina’s case that “warrants” tied to output thresholds have been a sweetener in commercial restructurings, but a full-fledged risk-sharing bond has yet to be issued to reduce solvency crisis odds. Countries worry that the yield premium demanded will be too steep and not change overall sustainability, while traditional investors like pension funds face difficulty pricing the equity-like component and placing allocation within the existing spectrum. They may also insist on greater returns due to novelty and illiquidity despite the innovation’s potential value to global financial system functioning, as with recent legal breakthroughs on collective action clauses. Government national account measurement and reporting is another concern prominent in Argentina’s episode, and accuracy and frequency challenges may be referred to the IMF under an indicative term sheet under preparation at the Bank of England with public and private sector consultation. It should be simpler than warrant guidelines and have international and domestic law versions for balance sheet flexibility.