Italian banks rely on ECB for over €51bn in long-term funds

ITALIAN banks were forced to plug a funding gap of at least €51.4bn (£42.9bn) in December by taking out three-year loans from the European Central Bank (ECB).

The revelation comes from calculations by Morgan Stanley analysts, who compiled data about which European lenders made use of the unprecedented offering of long-term cash by the Eurozone’s central bank.

Spanish banks borrowed at least €24.5bn, although several, including Santander and Bankia, refused to disclose how much they have taken out in loans.

French banks, which are also heavily reliant on wholesale funding, similarly refused to disclose their use of loans from the long term refinancing operation (LTRO).

The biggest single borrower to disclose its reliance on ECB funds was UniCredit, which took out loans worth just under half its annual funding target of €25.4bn.

The lender, which is Italy’s largest, is currently mired in a tumultuous rights issue that has seen its shares plummet in value since the start of the year.

Of UK banks, only RBS admitted using the funds, to the tune of €5bn, which it said were for its subsidiary in the Netherlands. Lloyds was the only UK bank to state that it definitively did not draw on ECB money.