NLB Back to Profit Next Year?

"I hope that with the transfer of non-performing loans, implementation of the restructuring plan and other measures to streamline operations, the bank will return to profit next year and achieve appropriate value for the taxpayers when the state decides to sell it," Cunder said.

Wilcke, meanwhile, opined that when the bank was ready depended on the success of the bad bank; if the operation is fast, NLB could soon become "a pretty good bank", he said.

He he was quick to point out, though, that NLB needed to be modernised and streamlined first.

Preparations for the transfer of non-performing loans to the Bank Assets Management Company (BAMC) are ongoing. According to Cunder, NLB already has an "internal bad bank" to which non-strategic assets have been transferred.

"In that sense, NLB is probably better prepared than the others. Other things need to be done before that, including the valuation of assets to be transferred. A part of the assets can be shifted soon, within the June deadline," he said.

Government plans suggest the three biggest banks, NLB included, will transfer non-performing loans of EUR 3.3bn to the bad bank.

Asked how much of the total is attributable to NLB, Cunder said the bank had proposed a total of EUR 1.9bn gross in assets be transferred.

"We've so far discussed only the first tranche, about EUR 1.3bn gross or EUR 700m net…The difference is the result of existing provisions."

Asked whether he was confident in the success of the bad bank, Wilcke said he had "a lot of confidence" in the non-executive directors, who were good international experts and knew what they were doing. "I think the operation must succeed, I don't see many alternatives."

NLB will soon get a fresh supply of capital from the state. Wilcke thinks it will not need additional state aid afterwards, not least because he expects that the European Commission will "insist that it be privatised over the next few years".

"If you've got a private shareholder, together with much tougher bank regulation, the combination of those two things is effectively designed to make it far less likely that a big, systemically important bank will fail and need taxpayer support," he said.