Withdrawal on the extra profits of credit institutions, the great irritation behind the bankers’ silence


By John

A deafening silence. It is that of the bankers in the aftermath of the surprise bomb launched by the government in the last Council of Ministers before the summer break: the levy on the extra profits of the credit institutions with the aim in the next maneuver of refinancing the mortgage fund for the first home and to ease the tax burden on households and businesses. Mouths sealed by the individual banks, but also by the ABI: for the moment we let the markets do the talking, with Piazza Affari dragged down by the crash of all the main bank stocks. A generalized ‘no comment’ that hides great irritation not only for the measure itself, but above all for the lack of any notice from the executive: the banks were not informed of a decision that no one expected and which, among other things, the Minister of the Economy Giancarlo Giorgetti he had categorically ruled out in June, reassuring that the measure was absolutely not in the pipeline. Although in Parliament, at the end of April, it was Giorgetti himself who underlined how the government would not neglect the increased profitability of the banks. ‘I remember – explained the minister – that in the last few months they have recorded significant improvements which are not finding an equally diligent adjustment of the interest recognized to customers on collection. This is a dynamic – he added – that the government cannot and will not neglect.

The only one to break the silence in these hours is Mario Alberto Pedranzini, number one of Banca Popolare di Sondrio, who summarizes the concerns of the sector as follows: ‘We were taken by surprise and we are awaiting the publication of the decree, in order to evaluate its effects on the bank’s financial statements. While the analysts of Mediobanca Securities underline how the impact of the tax decided by the government ‘goes far beyond the 3 billion estimated so far. ‘The effect would be enormous – it is explained – so great as to make it difficult to believe that the measure could be approved without modifications. The fear is above all for the smaller banks, on which a 40% withdrawal on a part of the interest margins could prove ruinous. Unlike the impact on the five largest institutions (Intesa Sanpaolo, Unicredit, Banco Bpm, Mps, Bper), those which in the first six months of this year recorded profits of over 10.5 billion euros, well over the double those of 2022. A huge amount for many, in a period in which families and businesses are dealing with skyrocketing inflation and high mortgages linked to the ECB’s interest rate tightening. A return to normality, on the other hand, for those in the world of credit who argue that the anomaly was rather that of ‘zero interest rates’, not that of profits returning to pre-financial crisis levels.

Behind the scenes, however, something is afoot. Contacts are reportedly underway between the executive and the banking world to limit the effects of what is essentially considered by bankers as a retroactive balance sheet with deferred effect. In particular, one would be thinking about the asset ceiling beyond which not to hit the institutions, the ceiling fixed in the first version of the law at 25%. This mechanism could change with the aim of avoiding distressing the balance sheets and the soundness of the institutions.