Lenders are enjoying the fruits of their labours. Having offloaded their most toxic bad loans, in 2022 banks were instead able to focus on smaller, strategic NPL disposals, even as macroeconomic hardship began to mount.
Europe's banks have been on quite a journey to get their non-performing loans (NPLs) under control through NPL disposal tools including portfolio sales and securitisations. While disposals of toxic debt were interrupted by the COVID-19 crisis, this work has been unrelenting. In last year's edition of this study, we described how NPL sales in Europe in 2021 had bounced back from pandemic disruption; 12 months later, we can report that sales continued in 2022, though at much reduced levels.
That slowdown reflects the extensive progress already made by banks. Most have reached a point where the imperative to further trim their NPL volumes is much diminished—they are free to make disposals according to their strategic and tactical priorities, rather than to avert disaster. That remains true despite the mounting economic and geopolitical volatility that Europe has faced over the past 18 months.
In this year's report, we examine the outlook for Europe's NPL market, including for secondary sales, over the months and years ahead. The first section considers the changing market dynamics, including the latest NPL data and analysis of what is driving activity. The second section offers a deep dive into key markets across Europe.
The future is highly uncertain. There is a case to be made both for a resurgence in NPL volumes and deal activity, and for a continued slowdown. Much will depend on the economic outturn, where uncertainty levels are even more elevated. The good news, however, is that these are precisely the market conditions in which new opportunities abound.