Steve Eisman, an investor who made a fortune by successfully predicting the 2007-2008 financial crash, is back with a worrying new target: European banks.
“Europe is screwed. You guys are still screwed,” Eisman told The Guardian in an interview published Saturday.
His concern is that European banks — particularly Italy’s — hold bad “non-performing loans” that are improperly valued, posing a very serious risk to the banks’ solvency.
“In the Italian system, the banks say they are worth 45-50 cents in the dollar. But the bid price is 20 cents. If they were to mark them down, they would be insolvent.”
In short: If many European banks admitted the true value of their loans, they’d go under, Eisman believes — potentially sparking a new financial crisis.
Eisman was featured in Michael Lewis’ award-winning book, “The Big Short,” as one of the few people to correctly predict that the financial crisis of 2007 was coming — making a fortune as his firm FrontPoint Partners bet against subprime mortgages (as much as $1 billion, The Guardian reports). He was subsequently played in the film adaptation of the book by Steve Carell — albeit with his name changed to Mark Baum.
If you’re British, you’re in luck when it comes to Eisman’s new predictions. ” “I’m not really worried about England’s banks … They are in better shape than most in Europe,” he said.
What is very negative is that in every country in Europe, the largest owner of that country’s sovereign bonds are that country’s banks.”
And Eisman, who now works at Neuberger Berman, isn’t the only one warning about European banks. KPMG fears that they are trapped in a “downward spiral,” The Telegraph reported in late October, with non-performing loans jumping on average from 1.5% of banks’ total in 2007 and 2007 to 5% today.
KPMG partner Marcus Evans isn’t entirely pessimistic, saying: “The successful banks will restructure their balance sheets to minimise the impact of new regulations and reduce their cost‑to‑income ratios through smart use of technology … Reversing the profitability of European banks is not a lost cause but it will certainly be a lot of hard work.”
Eisman’s assessment is blunter: “Europe is screwed.”
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