Greek banks to be tested for two more recession years-central banker

By Laura Noonan and George Georgiopoulos

ATHENS, Oct 9 (Reuters) - Greek banks will have to prove they have enough capital to withstand another two years of recession under the "adverse" scenario of stress tests being carried out in Athens, Greece's central bank governor George Provopoulos told Reuters.

The tests on the country's four largest banks, all majority owned by Greece's bank rescue fund the Hellenic Financial Stability Fund (HFSF), are being carried out to check if this summer's 28 billion euro ($38 billion) recapitalisation has left the banks capable of dealing with future shocks.

Greek banks have seen their non-performing loans swell to 28 percent of their total loan books, as six years of consecutive recession wiped 25 percent off the country's output, while Greece's bailout programme demanded wage cuts and tax hikes.

Greece expects to return to marginal growth in 2014.

"Under the baseline scenario, which represents our forecast and the troika's forecast, Greece will return to growth in 2014," Provopoulos said in an interview, referring to the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund collectively.

"Under the adverse scenario, growth kicks in in 2016, with small negative growth rates until then."

The adverse scenario from Greece's 2011/2012 stress tests was exceeded, but Provopoulos said the latest adverse scenario should not be interpreted as a forecast in this year's tests, which are being carried out on National Bank of Greece , Piraeus, Alpha Bank and Eurobank .

Alpha Bank Chief Economist Michael Massourakis said it would be a "grave mistake" to take the 2013 adverse scenario as a prediction. "It was like the universe conspired to produce the Blackrock adverse scenario (from 2011)," Massourakis said, referring to the U.S. consultancy which carried out the review in 2011/2 and is doing the 2013 version as well.

"This will not be the case this time round."

Provopoulos said he was "increasingly optimistic" about the future of the eurozone, including Greece, with 2014's expected return to growth promising a "positive impact on overall confidence" that would boost spending and investment.

Greece may have to agree a third bailout programme because it will not have enough money to meet spending in 2014 and there has been speculation that the cash could come from the bank bailout fund.

"It is imperative that the unused funds amounting to between 8 to 9 billion euros remain available as a backstop for the banking sector," said Provopoulos.