Slovenian Lawmakers Approve Jazbec to Lead Central Bank

Slovenia's Incoming Central Bank Governor Bostjan Jazbec
Slovenia's incoming central bank governor Bostjan Jazbec poses for a photograph in Ljubljana. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Slovenian lawmakers approved Bostjan Jazbec’s bid to head the central bank and join the European Central Bank’s governing council as the former Yugoslav republic works to avert an international bailout.

Legislators gave the nod to Jazbec, an International Monetary Fund expert, in a 77 to 4 vote today in Ljubljana. His approval came as current Governor Marko Kranjec, who steps down in July, warned the government must detail its plan to salvage the economy and stabilize banks to avoid a banking collapse.

Slovenia, grappling with its second recession since 2009, is trying to avoid becoming the sixth euro nation to ask for aid. Investor concerns that authorities will fail to implement a 4 billion-euro ($5.1 billion) plan to prop up banks and lose access to financing abroad boosted borrowing costs at a time when the Alpine nation is looking to tap bond markets.

“I am sure Slovenia can fix its bank industry woes on its own and to consolidate public finances,” said Jazbec, who helped set up Kosovo’s central bank. “We have to be aware that the crisis hasn’t only Slovenia, but many in our neighborhood.”

The yield on Slovenia’s dollar-denominated bonds maturing in 2022 fell 20 basis points to 5.94 percent at 5:28 p.m. in Ljubljana today, data compiled by Bloomberg show. The yield climbed to a record 6.382 percent on March 27.

Kranjec today said he remains “worried” about the outlook in 2014 and Prime Minister Alenka Bratusek’s two-week-old Cabinet must “show it’s serious” on resolving the nation’s troubles.

‘Great Responsibility’

“The government has a great responsibility to stabilize the financial and economic woes of Slovenia,” Kranjec said. “A lot of uncertainties on Slovenia will depend on what the government will do next. We expect the government to present details of its economic program.”

Slovenian bonds are “attractively priced” for investors who can tolerate near-term volatility as the parallels between it and Cyprus are exaggerated, JPMorgan strategist Gianluca Salford wrote in a client note today.

Slovenia’s recessions have boosted bankruptcies and pushed bad loans to about a fifth of economic output. Banks such as Nova Ljubljanska Banka d.d. and Nova Kreditna Banka Maribor d.d. have been hit by the recession and the collapse of the construction industry, the pre-crisis driver of growth.

Nova Kreditna, which had a 205 million-euro 2012 loss, was one of four banks that failed last year to meet European capital targets set by regulators. Bank of Cyprus Pcl, Cyprus Popular Bank Pcl, known as Laiki Bank, and Italy’s Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena SpA were the others.

ECB Loans

While none of Slovenia’s banks have required emergency liquidity assistance, local banks have borrowed “a lot” from the ECB, Kranjec said today, without giving further details. The central bank will act if its sees urgent capital is needed, he said.

Bratusek last week pledged that her government will press ahead with austerity measures to improve public finances, which she said were in “bad shape” and rebuild the banking system.

Slovenia needs ‘credible measures’ to avoid aid, Janez Fabijan, a central bank vice governor, told reporters today in Ljubljana.

The economy will contract 1.9 percent this year and grow 0.5 percent next year, the central bank said earlier today in a statement. GDP contracted 3 percent in the fourth quarter.

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