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Brazilian NPL portfolios – fly or flop?

Banking analysts are starting to ring alarm bells about Brazil – in recent months there has been a rapid increase in consumer lending by local banks, but this came hand in hand with a large increase in the non-performing loan market.

In the past five years, consumer loans as a proportion of GDP have grown from 6.5% to 10.5%, with most growth occurring in the past 18 months. Today, the Brazilian financial system has aggregated more than R$30 billion ($15.4 billion) of NPLs. Hot on the heels of increasing NPL ratios is the growing NPL auction market.

Lehman Brothers won the first Brazilian NPL portfolio auction last August, a $500 million basket of corporate loans made by Brazil’s Banco Real, and sold by ABN Amro. This sale was reported as an "inflection point for the NPL market in Latin America" by Hernán Magariños, a vice-president at PricewaterhouseCoopers, because it sparked interest from both buyers and sellers. "Local banks are realizing they now have a way to cash out some of their most complicated assets and improve their balance sheets," says Fernando Alvarez, head of Latin American corporate trading at Lehman Brothers, "Most NPLs have zero liquidity and take away cash and human resources from banking focuses." PricewaterhouseCoopers is undertaking the auditing for five other NPL portfolios for auction in Brazil this year.

Since August 2006 there has been, on average, at least one portfolio on sale each month as banks package up their NPL assets into sellable portfolios as they struggle to handle their NPL ratios.

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