13 Oct 2008

EU chiefs confront finance crisis

6:15 am on 13 October 2008

Eurozone leaders are meeting in Paris to try to establish a common front to tackle the financial crisis.

British PM Gordon Brown is also attending.

They reportedly plan to guarantee loans between banks.

Unwillingness by banks to lend to each other is the key problem of the credit crunch and it is hoped that loan guarantees will solve it.

Money lent for up to five years would be guaranteed but the banks would be charged at commercial rates for the service.

AFP reports a draft statement also says that the 15 eurozone leaders are determined not to let any major financial institutions fail and will step in to provide extra capital to failing banks if necessary.

A member of the French government has already said that the French cabinet will hold a special session on Monday to approve a bill offering state guarantees and recapitalisation to banks in trouble.

Other moves

Several other countries also announced steps to protect their banks and depositors on Sunday.

Portugal's finance minister announced a 20 billion euro ($US27 billion) state guarantee for banks.

Norway is to borrow 41 billion euros to pay for measures to provide extra cash to financial markets.

Australia is to guarantee all deposits in the banks, building societies and credit unions for the next three years.

New Zealand is guaranteeing all retail bank deposits for two years.

A British rescue plan announced last week, involves making Stg 50 billion ($US85 billion) available to buy stakes in major banks; another Stg 200 billion for short term loans from the Bank of England and offering Stg 250 billion of loan guarantees for banks lending to each other.

The BBC reports the French plan sounds similar, although the details are not yet clear.

G7 statement

Finance ministers and central bankers from the Group of Seven industrialised countries met in Washington on Friday.

In a brief statement after a meeting that lasted less than four hours, the G7 said the current situation calls for urgent and exceptional action.

They unveiled a five-point plan to counter the world financial crisis, including the use of "all available tools" to support key institutions.

The plan also calls for action, where appropriate, to restart secondary markets for mortgages and other securitised assets.

The G7 vowed to take all necessary steps to unfreeze credit markets and ensure banks can raise money, but no specifics were given on a collective course of action to avert recession.

The G7 talks came at the end of a week in which stock markets in Europe, Asia and the United States lost as much as 20% of their value.

Late on Friday, US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said the United States planned to invest directly in banks for the first time since the 1930s, following the UK programme of partial bank nationalisation.