Saturday, November 10, 2012

Consolidated Loan Liabilities

The release on Thursday of the 2011 Institutional Sector Accounts by the CSO gives an insight into the financial stocks (assets and liabilities) and non-financial flows (income, consumption and savings) of the main sectors of the economy.  One addition to this year’s release is the inclusion of ‘consolidated’ tables for the financial tables.  As the release says:

This year both consolidated and non-consolidated tables are presented for the first time for the Financial Accounts.  The consolidated analysis allows a clearer view of transactions and balance sheet positions between institutional sectors. Transactions between entities in the same institutional sector are netted out in this consolidated presentation.

The end of year (consolidated) stock of financial assets and liabilities is shown excluding stocks which exist between units within the same sector. This view of the accounts can be very useful when analysing financial instruments such as loan liabilities as the consolidated view removes inter-sectoral balances.

Here are the consolidated debt liabilities of the household, government and non-financial corporate sectors at the end of 2011.

Consolidated Liabilities

The differences between the non-consolidated and consolidated figures for the household sector are zero, while there are about €5 billion of extra liabilities on the government’s non-consolidated accounts (likely related the Housing Finance Association).  

The big difference is for the NFC sector where the consolidation reduces the liability figure by €45 billion.  These are liabilities owed by the resident NFC sector to other counter-parties in the resident NFC sector, i.e. domestic intra-company loans.

A recent table from the IMF which included the following 2012 totals for the gross, non-consolidated debts of the three sectors as a percent of GDP got a lot of attention, including in The Wall Street Journal.

  • Household: 117%
  • NFC: 258%
  • Government: 118%

It can be seen that the figures for the household and government sectors reconcile roughly with those in the above table.  The 2012 deficit and return to bond markets of the government sector explain the increase that will be seen in 2012.  The figures that can’t be similarly reconciled are those for the NFC sector.

The 258% of GDP figure used by the IMF is a much greater than the 168% of GDP figure consolidated figure now provided by the CSO.  Some of the difference is due to the consolidation that removes domestic intra-sectoral balances.  It is also the case that the CSO have revised down the earlier figures. 

When they first reported the 2010 non-consolidated loans figure for the NFC sector it was €337 billion.  In this year’s release that figure has been revised to €298 billion.

It will also be the case that a significant proportion of the consolidated loan liabilities of NFCs are to the Rest of the World - predominantly the borrowings of foreign multinational
corporations resident in Ireland.  Thus the 168% of GDP figure in this week’s release is still an exaggeration of what might be considered “Irish” corporate debt, which is some level less that 168% of GDP.

According to data from the Central Bank lending from Irish-resident banks to Irish-resident NFCs peaked at €175 billion in the third quarter of 2008, of which €115 billion was to property-related sectors.  The lending to the property-related sectors is a mess and huge amounts of it won’t be repaid.  Transaction data shows that the €60 billion of non-property related lending to Irish NFCs has declined by the €6 billion in the interim.

The figure for “Irish” NFC debt will be high at the moment but it is still the case that much of the NFC loans are delinquent property-related loans that will not be repaid.  A large portion of these remain to be resolved but this process will reduce the NFC debt figure.

This process also means that the total of household, government and NFC debt results in some double-counting.  There are around €50 billion of property-related loans now controlled by NAMA in the NFC figure and the government loans figure includes the €25 billion of Promissory Notes to the IBRC to cover the losses on these loans. 

Either the developers will repay the loans they have taken out (they won’t) or the government will repay the Promissory Notes (they will).  They won’t be paid twice.  The government debt figure also includes monies for the recapitalisation of the pillar banks.

The most recent recapitalisation from March 2011 provided money to cover losses on household and business lending that the banks will incur before the end of 2013.  This has added to the government debt figure but when these inevitable losses are (eventually) resolved they will reduce the household and NFC debt figures.

Both the household and Irish NFC sectors have seen reductions in the amount of debt they are carrying for the past four years.  This process will continue through repayments and the eventual writing down of unpayable debts.  The ongoing deficits mean that the debt of the government sector continues to increase.

Ireland has a massive debt problem, and this top-level analysis does not reflect the huge difficulties faced by individual households and businesses, but the problem is not intractable.  The level of debt is probable somewhere around €500 billion.  This is three times GDP and four times GNP.

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