Magazine article Business Credit

Interest High on Spain, Middle East at FCIB Hamburg Event

Magazine article Business Credit

Interest High on Spain, Middle East at FCIB Hamburg Event

Article excerpt

As would be expected, FCIB'S annual International Credit and Risk Management Summit, held at the Le Meridian hotel in Hamburg, Germany in May, focused mainly on problems in the European Union. Notably, doomsday predictions about Spain and of a potential Greek exit from the euro were front of mind.

At the onset, Ducroire Delcredere Country and Sector Risk Coordinator Ben Deboeck spent a portion of his keynote speech outlining the potentially "catastrophic" implications of a continued downward spiral in Spain. A default would far outpace the red herring that has been the Greece story, in the economists estimation. With demand down throughout the EU, regions with vast autonomy making it hard for the Spanish capital to reign in and unemployment surging to near 25% with youth figures exceeding 50%, things look bleak in the third most important economy on the continent.

"Spain's banking problems pose the largest threat to public finances." he said. "It's hard to see where robust growth should come from in the coming years."

However, all is not lost in Europe just yet. Deboeck mentioned that, like Italy, Spain had done a good job to date meeting austerity/economic reform targets through spring. In addition, there are examples where high-debt nations that made massive changes to policy emerged strong eventually. To wit, few except Germany are in better shape presently than the Netherlands, a perennial debtor nation even during periods of last decade that is now in somewhat of a catbird's seat. In addition, still-healthy German consumerism could play a significant role in healing some problems.

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Meanwhile, panelists Silvina Aldeco-Martinez of S&P Capital IQ and Jane Johnson of Atradius cautioned over analyzing the big-picture, "simple" sovereign ratings, without looking into things like intra-country regional happenings as well as established trade relationships in Europe and beyond. There can be low-ranked countries from a sovereign ratings standpoint that have some well-performing regions, and vice-versa, they warned.

Also of particular interest during the conference was talk of business and credit conditions in the Middle East, an area where many pin hopes of growth, but carry fears of uncertainty. Several panelists surprised some in the crowd by outlining a perhaps overlooked aspect of Middle East-based businesses and their proprietors amid the many perceived cultural differences: that there are actually more significant commonalities with so-called "traditional" businesses in the West than often depicted. …

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