(Bloomberg) -- The executive responsible for the Nordic operations of BNP Paribas SA says the region’s property crisis won’t trigger a financial collapse to match that of the 1990s owing to a much stronger banking system.
“If you speak to the local banks that have quite a lot of real estate exposure, I can’t see anyone panicking really,” BNP’s Nordic Chief Executive Officer Eirik Winter said in an interview.
Lenders in Sweden, where Winter is based, have come under increasing scrutiny over the real estate risks on their loan books amid a plunge in home prices and the struggles of commercial landlords as they race to refinance a $17 billion wall of maturing bond debt over the next 18 months.
Above-average property exposures have prompted a raft of analysts, from JPMorgan Chase & Co to Barclays Plc, to warn of the potential losses facing the region’s banking sector, and last week Moody’s Investors Service signaled it may lower the credit rating on Svenska Handelsbanken AB if the fallout worsens.
While Winter admits he has “a little bit of a chilling feeling of deja vu” when it comes to the ongoing property slump in Sweden, he says there are key differences between now and 30 years ago — when a housing crash sparked widespread collapse across the Nordic nation’s banking industry.
“The banking system is strong and it’s in everyone’s interest not to have any major disasters,” he said. “I think this will be solved over time.”
Winter, who’s been running the Nordic business since 2018 with close to 1,000 employees in the region, points to the “diversified capital structures and aggressive divestment programs” of Swedish property companies as further positives.
Nor are the real estate woes having a detrimental effect on BNP’s business in this part of Europe, according to Winter. “We’ve been picking up in our cash management business,” he said. “The same goes for our loan portfolio, and investment-grade bond activity has been as hot as ever.”
Areas that have taken a hit amid the volatility are the markets for new share listings and dealmaking, however.
“The M&A market is driven by sentiment and when there’s insecurity in the world, people are not pulling the trigger on very big transactions,” Winter said.
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