Sure, it’s the cheap, easy, cynical view to adopt that the bail-out/splintering of the French/Belgian/Luxembourgish bank Dexia, worked out over the weekend, is just going to be the first of many such episodes. Then again, it’s also the de rigueur statement for any finance minister involved to make under such circumstances – “No, I don’t think so, certainly not French banks” – such as that which French finance minister François Baroin uttered when asked by reporters if there would be any others.
Of course there will be others. For heaven’s sake, there were already two others (i.e. European bank nationalizations) happening even as Dexia hogged the headlines the past few days. (Details here, in English: namely a Greek bank – surprise! – that was nationalized after getting in trouble over money-laundering, and a Danish bank that made foolish real estate loans.) And now we have further explicit confirmation of this from Kleis Jager at the Dutch newspaper Trouw: French prepare in secret for more misery.
Topped by an unfortunate photo of current (unelected) Belgian Prime Minister Yves Leterme and France’s PM François Fillon with sly, conspiratorial smiles on their faces, Jager’s piece tells of how, even before Dexia, the French government realized that it needed to get ready to save at least “two or three” big banks – preferably by forcing them to sell themselves to outsiders with big money.
(Just as Luxembourg did with its part of Dexia, selling it to the Qataris, for example. You’ve got to admire the Luxemburgers, though – on the very Sunday (9 October) that Dexia was collapsing, finance ministers were feverishly meeting, and Qataris were presumably being wined-and-dined, they were also holding their national elections!)
Wait, you want names? No problem: according to Trouw, the French had in mind specifically BNP Paribas, Société Générale and Crédit Agricole as the banks where they would need to intervene. No Dexia on that list! But all of these have done good business through the years – “good” so far – providing loaned money to not only Greece, but also Spain and Italy.
To be fair, this is not Jager’s scoop, but rather one he credits to the French paper Journal du Dimanche. BNP Paribas and Société Générale immediately issued denials once the latter had published its report. But I refer you again to Finance Minister François Baroin’s comments cited above.