Jill Treanor

October 10, 2011

Dexia has become the first casualty of the 2011 banking crisis, with its Belgian arm being bought by the country’s government and Belgium, France and Luxembourg providing a €90bn (£78bn) guarantee for its financing.

The bank, which specialises in local government financing and provides backing for more than 40 private finance initiative projects in the UK, ran into difficulties after its €3.4bn of exposure to Greece sparked concerns about its ability to absorb losses on the positions. Other banks no longer wanted to lend it enough money to keep operating.

The bank was also one of the first to need a bailout in 2008 when it received €6bn of assistance from France and Belgium and the latest bailout is taking place at a time when the markets fear that Europe’s banking system could suffer severe losses because of the eurozone crisis. The International Monetary Fund has estimated banks might need up to €200bn as an extra capital cushion to cope with further losses. After its embattled board met on Sunday, Dexia announced on Mondaythat Belgium would pay €4bn for the operations in that country and ratings agency Moody’s had already warned on Friday that the burden of protecting Dexia could force a reduction in the AA1 rating assigned to Belgian government bonds. “Moody’s intends to assess the potential costs and additional contingent liabilities that the government may incur in supporting the Dexia Group,” the agency said on Friday.

Belgian finance minister Didier Reynders said that the bailout would lift the country’s debt from around 97% of economic output to 98% in an attempt to downplay the impact on the country’s finances.

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