Insight: EU banks shrink; Irish farmers, Qatari bosses flinch

Wed Jan 18, 2012 6:57am EST
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By Steve Slater

LONDON (Reuters) - From his idyllic farm in Ireland's lush Wicklow Hills, Colin Hadden hatched a plan to supply his lean, grass-fed specialty lamb to some of Dublin's finest restaurants.

Over the last two years, his small business boomed, taking on 15 people and opening a butcher shop and food hall. That was before his bank halved his overdraft facility to 50,000 euros.

"They are literally making life impossible," said Hadden, who has been forced to ask suppliers for loans and provide credit to his restaurant customers, who are also suffering as EU banks shrink and the debt crisis bites.

"They are acting as debt collectors rather than banks. They are squeezing the life out of my business," Hadden told Reuters.

Hadden thinks his business, Ballyshonog Farm Foods, will survive the next year but is less confident about the future. "If you don't have credit you don't have a business," he said.

The pattern of banks withdrawing lines of credit, or "deleveraging" in banking terms, is being repeated across Ireland and Europe as well as further afield.

And it's not just the small firms that are scrambling.

Ballyshonog's hill farming may be a far cry from ship building in the yards of Denmark or pumping gas in the deserts of Qatar but small businesses and industrial conglomerates alike are all feeling the pain as European banks cut off loans.   Continued...