Financial doomsday looms for 2012
Boom-year debts could bust us
25 November 2011
I’ve got some good news, and some bad news.
The good news is that if we get through 2012 without the financial collapse of a big bank or a eurozone government, our economy will probably muddle through, flatlining rather than falling back into acute recession.
The bad news is that 2012 is the year of greatest risk that a bloated bank or over-extended government will be unable to repay its debts – because it is a year when a frightening volume of the loans that were taken out in the boom years fall due for repayment.
In private equity, for example, much of the money that was borrowed to finance the buyouts of big companies from 2005-7 has to be paid back in the coming year.
In practice, it would mean replacing old debts with new debts – borrowing new money to repay existing creditors.
One specialist in this kind of finance told me that he has just been approached by a private-equity firm looking to refinance £2.5bn of maturing debt. His instinctive reaction: fat chance.
Why so gloomy?