Asia banks keep watch over Europe debt crisis

SINGAPORE, Aug 12, 2011 (AFP) - Asian banks are closely monitoring their exposure to Europe amid rising concerns over the health of the eurozone banking sector, some lenders and sources said Friday.

At least one Asian bank is reviewing its position in relation to European lenders, Dow Jones Newswires reported, without naming the institution.

"The exercise (review) started few days ago," Dow Jones quoted a banker with an Asian financial institution as saying.

"Every bank (in Asia) is reviewing their credit exposure and are looking whether to tighten credit lines to European banks."

Another person confirmed to Dow Jones that a review by Asian banks was under way, adding however there had been no move to tighten credit lines.

But a regional economist with an Asian lender told AFP that "most banks within Southeast Asia have already trimmed their exposure to European banks to the bare bones."

The economist, who did not want to be named, said Asian banks have been reducing their exposure to European banks since late 2009.

"It's been more than a year because the European debt crisis was already in the spotlight from end 2009 onward," he said, describing his own bank's exposure to lenders in Europe as "super bare."

Singapore's DBS Bank said it was monitoring the situation in Europe closely, but stressed that its exposure was minimal.

"As part of our overall risk management framework, DBS has assessed the potential risks relating to a debt crisis in the eurozone," a DBS spokesperson said in response to an AFP query.

"Our holding of European sovereign papers is negligible and in addition, DBS has no exposure to Portugal, Greece and Ireland. We are comfortable with our current exposures and we will continue to keep a close watch on the situation going forward."

Frank Flynn, group chief credit officer at OCBC Bank in Singapore said: "With regard to European credit and country risk exposures -- no changes have been made recently.

"But we continue to conduct reviews on a regular basis as part of our prudent risk-taking practices," he told AFP.

Markets around the world have been roiled on concerns that the US and eurozone debt crisis may spark a new recession and after rumours of a France credit rating downgrade and fears over Greek debt.

Markets are wondering whether France and Germany -- the eurozone's two biggest economies -- can continue to underwrite other states' debts without losing their top credit ratings and falling victim to the crisis themselves.

The crisis started in Greece and is now fuelled by fears that Spain or Italy might default on their debt and possibly spark a break-up of the currency shared by 17 countries.

Eurozone leaders last month announced a new debt rescue for Greece totalling 159 billion euros ($225 billion) which allowed Athens to avert a default that many analysts feared could have shaken the global financial system.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Thursday called a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel to find solutions to the eurozone debt crisis.

Other news