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Spain's mortgage relief plans may mean higher provisions, top bankers say

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Santander bank is seen outside a branch in Ronda

MADRID (Reuters) -Two top Spanish bankers on Tuesday said Spain's mortgage relief plan could lead to an increase in bad debt provisions and weigh on banks' capital reserves.

The Spanish government and the country's banks on Monday reached an agreement in principle on mortgage relief measures, such as extending loan repayments, for more than 1 million vulnerable households and on help for middle-class families.

The planned measures are part of a wider package of support to help ease cost of living pressures.

"Some of the measures have an impact on the provisions, as it cannot be otherwise, as soon as an extension (is agreed) there are always elements that have an impact on the provisions," Santander CEO Jose Antonio Alvarez told reporters on the sidelines of a financial event.

Alvarez said that even small changes in how a potential mortgage refinancing or extension is done could have an impact on capital consumption related to the bank's mortgage loans.

Sabadell CEO Cesar Gonzalez-Bueno also on the sidelines of the event said the government plan must not harm banks too much.

"There must be a way to find equilibrium to help decisively clients who need it and do it without harming banks' accounts excessively," Gonzalez-Bueno said.

Sabadell would sign the code in principle depending on the last details, Gonzalez-Bueno said.

Alvarez added that Santander had still not signed off on the mortgage support agreement though it planned to do so. Some technical aspects were still being discussed such as how to classify clients' loans, he said.

Santander CEO also said care must be taken to ensure that the support measures do not make access to loans more difficult.

"Once a customer is classified as stage 3 (loans considered as impaired) because of some of these technical aspects, clients have a problem in the future, which is that it is difficult for them to access credit," Alvarez told reporters.

(Reporting by Jesús Aguado and Emma Pinedo; Editing by Inti Landauro, Jane Merriman and Mark Porter)