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Govt could convert FX loans

The government is mulling the conversion of Hungarian borrowers' big stock of foreign currency-denominated loans, local dailies said on Wednesday. The government could convert borrowers' Swiss franc-denominated loans into forints or euro with the cooperation of the Swiss National Bank, daily Magyar Nemzet said. The basis for the conversion could be talks between incoming National Bank of Hungary governor György Matolcsy and his Swiss counterpart Thomas Jordan, the paper said. The conversion is part of a possible solution drawn up by the economy ministry for the problem of Hungary's big stock of FX loans. Matolcsy served as Hungary's economy minister until Sunday. He will take the oath of office for central bank governor on Wednesday. Daily Népszabadság said the government wants banks to convert non-performing fx loans – those past 90 days due – into forints at the prevailing exchange rate, while at the same time writing off part of the loans against the bank levy. A similar programme was introduced last summer for borrowers, but tight eligibility requirements kept the participation rate at just 15%, the paper said. Hungarian households borrowed heavily in Swiss franc when the forint was strong and FX loans were cheaper than forint ones. But the weaker forint raised repayments on the FX loans, causing the number of distressed borrowers to swell. The government is currently in talks with banks and civil groups on a solution to FX borrowers' problems.