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Europe’s Banks Are Now Worth Less Combined Than Apple by Itself

Michelle F. Davis

(Bloomberg) -- European banks are now collectively worth less than Apple Inc.

The 36 lenders in the Bloomberg Europe 500 Banks Index -- with $28 trillion in assets and employing more than 2 million people -- have slipped below the market value of tech giants like Apple and Microsoft Inc. Andreas Treichl, chairman of Austrian lender Erste Group Bank AG, said Friday that the sobering milestone “tells a story” about the lagging fortunes of his industry.

European banks have limped along for years since the financial crisis, battling record-low interest rates and losing share to U.S. rivals in global businesses. Treichl chalked up some of the difficulties to European policy makers being unable to come up with common rules that would enable development of debt markets and allow banks to securitize more loans.

“Europe will be at a constant disadvantage vis-a-vis the U.S. and other parts of the world that are working on developing their capital markets faster than we do in Europe,” Treichl said Friday on a panel at a conference hosted by the Institute of International Finance in Washington.

The firms in the banking index were worth $1 trillion more than Apple as recently as 2014. Treichl noted one area that gives European banks a chance to catch up against international rivals: funding efforts to fight climate change.

“Europe still has a great chance to make it – particularly on the field of environment and sustainability,” he said. “My guess is the chance is substantially higher than 50% that we’re gonna screw it up.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Michelle F. Davis in New York at mdavis194@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Michael J. Moore at mmoore55@bloomberg.net, Steve Dickson

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