New European financial services commissioner reminds everybody that Italian banks' woes pre-date Brexit vote

Hayley Kirton
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Italy's banks are weighed down by €360bn in bad loans collectively (Source: Getty)

The issues with Italy's banking industry do not stem solely from the Brexit vote, the new European financial services commissioner said today.

Speaking in front of the European Parliament's committee on economic and monetary affairs, Valdis Dombrovskis remarked that many of the problems that Italy's banks were currently struggling with were in place long before the UK's decision to leave the EU was announced.

"Of course we are aware of current difficulties in the Italian banking sector, that high non-performing loan ratios and low profitability has put many banks under pressure and this is reflected among other things in the decline of share prices," said Dombrovskis. "But this is not a new development. It is something that is already happening since the beginning of the year."

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Italy's banks are burdened with a staggering €360bn (£309.4bn) in bad loans between them and this is far from a new problem for the sector.

However, the surprise Brexit vote has shaken the banking industry worldwide, and Italy's lenders are no exception. Shares in Unicredit, Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena, Banco Popolare and Intesa Sanpaolo were all trading around a quarter lower in the week following the referendum.

Dombrovskis' statements might come as a blow to Italy's government, as it has been speculated that it is currently trying to firm up arrangements to inject €40bn of capital into the banking system, pinning the blame for the sector's problems on Brexit uncertainty.

Read more: Sterling falls to new lows while gold jumps amid ongoing Brexit concerns

The European Commission has already granted the country a guarantee scheme to create a precautionary liquidity support programme for struggling banks.

Today was Dombrovskis' first hearing since being appointed to the role of financial services commissioner. He replaced Lord Jonathan Hill, who stepped down from the role shortly after the Brexit vote.

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