US banks 'over-reserved' against potential losses

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The Independent Online
AMERICA'S banks are now 'substantially over-reserved' against potential losses on loans to lesser-developed countries, according to a report by Standard & Poor's, the US credit-rating agency, writes Larry Black.

The six largest US lenders to the Third World had reduced their exposure from dollars 55bn in 1987 to about dollars 17bn at the end of 1991, having charged off about dollars 17bn and sold, exchanged or up-graded the balance.

The agency said a country-by-country study suggests that the banks - Citicorp, Chase Manhattan, Bank of America, JP Morgan, Chemical Bank and Bankers Trust - 'are now able to redeploy a portion of their LDC reserves to cover current domestic problems'.

Some of the best-reserved banks, notably JP Morgan and Bankers Trust, have already transferred some of their excess holdings. But Chemical Bank, which recently merged with Manufacturers Hanover Trust, now holds dollars 1bn more than it needs to cover potential LDC losses, S&P says.

A large part of current LDC reserves are now unnecessary, the agency said, considering the removal of Mexico and Chile from the troubled list and recent Brady Plan agreements with Brazil and Argentina, which exchange bank debt for US-backed bonds.