German watchdog eyes $600 bln global bank losses: report

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – The financial market crisis could cause losses of up to $600 billion at banks and other financial institutions worldwide, a German magazine reported on Saturday, citing an internal report by German financial watchdog BaFin.

“…upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity…”
óLuke 21:25

The $600 billion figure represents a worst-case scenario for losses linked to the financial turmoil sparked by the meltdown in the U.S. subprime mortgage market, Der Spiegel magazine said in a story released in advance of publication on Monday.

“Based on current knowledge and the market situation, we believe $430 billion is more likely,” the magazine quoted what it said was a 16-page report by BaFin as saying.

BaFin calculated that banks had already acknowledged about $295 billion in losses, of which Germany accounted for around 10 percent, the magazine said.

Extrapolating from this percentage, German banks could suffer $60 billion in losses in the worst case and $43 billion in the more favorable scenario, the magazine added.

However, the magazine also said BaFin cited the risk that the financial crisis could spread beyond the banking sector to affect hedge funds, insurance companies, pension funds and even some non-financial companies.

A BaFin spokeswoman declined to comment on the Spiegel report but said the watchdog had prepared a discussion paper ahead of a two-day meeting of financial regulators and central bankers in Rome that ended on Saturday.

A figure of around $300 billion for losses reported to date came from publicly available sources, she said.

German mass-circulation Bild newspaper reported on Friday that German banks could face as much as 70 billion euros ($110 billion) in writedowns on their investments as a result of the credit crisis, citing “speculation by banking insiders” for the report.

A spokesman for Germany’s Finance Ministry on Friday also said worldwide losses so far were about $300 billion but said he was not aware of the 70 billion euro figure mentioned in Bild.

Germany’s big listed banks such as Deutsche Bank (XETRA:DBKGN.DE – News), Commerzbank (XETRA:CBKG.DE – News) and Deutsche Postbank (XETRA:DPBGN.DE – News) have largely escaped the huge subprime-related writedowns seen at some international rivals.

However, the country’s state-sector banks have been hit hard, with two of their number nearly collapsing after billions of euros in risky investments turned bad.

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