In the last decade the banks established in the Italian Mezzogiorno have reduced their cost-income ratios and improved their ability to screen customers, thus increasing their profitability. They have also widened the range of services they provide to customers. The spread between the cost of bank lending to firms in the South and North of Italy has narrowed substantially in recent years. Taking into account the differences in the size and industry composition of firms in the two areas, the spread is currently equal to 0.90 percentage points (the lowest value for fifteen years). Since 1990 the growth of bank loans in the North has outpaced that in the South. However, this divergence is only apparent, since it is largely a reflection of the greater proportion of new bad loans in relation to total lending in the South. Since the mid-1990s in the South the ratio of outstanding loans to local firms to funds raised locally has increased from 75 percent to around 85 percent. The ratio is lower than average for the banks established in the South, while it is greater than 100 percent for banks established in the North. The lower value of the loans-to-deposits ratio in the South reflects both structural features of the Southern economy and the way in which bank loans are allocated geographically in the financial statistics.
Published in 2003 in: Moneta e credito, v. 56, 222, pp. 127-160