Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Italy — France?
With a gaping public deficit and record level of debt, the euro zone’s second largest economy wants to be sure it is not sucked into the bloc’s game of debt-crisis dominoes, hence Paris’s forceful lobbying for ways to shore up Europe’s banks. France is one of the strongest advocates of a Europe-wide banking union and, with an eye on its own banks’ exposure to vulnerable debt in struggling countries, for immediate recapitalisation of banks from euro zone rescue funds.
“I think the French are pushing this for a simple reason: They bloody well know they’re next in line. They’re after Italy,” said Nicholas Spiro, head of consultancy Spiro Sovereign Strategy.
Apart from France’s own financial stress — its gross debt is about 90% of gross domestic product and rising — its banks have major exposure to the euro zone’s most fragile economies.
BNP Paribas, BPCE, Credit Agricole, Societe Generale and Dexia, meanwhile, have a combined exposure of 32.5 billion euros to Italian sovereign debt. Moody’s noted that BNP was exposed to Italy through its local subsidiary BNL, which has a 71-billion-euro loan book, and 11 billion euros of Italian government debt. Dexia is the most exposed to Italian government debt, with 11.7 billion euros on its books, but even if the debt crisis does not engulf Italy, the deeply troubled municipal lender could be a big drain on French public finances.