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Basel gives banks breathing space over new accounting rules

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LONDON Oct 11 Global regulators will give banks time to adjust to potential increases in capital requirements when tougher accounting rules are introduced in 2018.

In the face of strong pushback from European governments over new capital requirements for lenders, the Basel Committee is taking a more accommodative stance than previously on how its rules should be implemented.

For an interim period, banks won't have to change their capital treatments when the new accounting rules come into force, the committee said in a consultation paper on the new requirements, released on Tuesday.

A core lesson from the 2007-09 financial crisis was that banks were too late in setting aside capital to cover souring loans, forcing taxpayers to bail out lenders.

New accounting rules from January 2018 will require lenders to account for some or all provisions upfront, well before a loan is effectively in default as under the current system.

This has a knock-on effect on capital requirements.

The Basel Committee of banking regulators from nearly 30 countries writes the capital rules applied by banks.

"The committee is considering the implications for regulatory capital, as the new accounting provisioning models introduce fundamental changes to banks' provisioning practices," it said in a statement.

Banks were worried that provisioning under the new accounting rules could dent their core capital ratios, forcing them to find extra capital to reassure markets about their solvency.

"Without adjustments to the current capital regime by 2018, core equity Tier 1 ratios are expected to decrease without a corresponding change in the level of risk, risk appetite, banks' strategy, management or level of losses," the European Banking Federation has said.

European governments in particular have also opposed big increases in banks' capital requirements, fearing that could put too much financial pressure on lenders and also crimp lending and hurt the economy.

The committee is also seeking comments on whether any "transitional arrangements" are warranted to allow banks time to adjust to the new accounting standards.

The regulators are also asking for feedback on long-term capital requirements for loan provisions.

"At this stage, the committee has not made a decision to pursue any of the approaches presented in the paper," the committee said. (Reporting by Huw Jones; Editing by Susan Fenton)

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