Refinancing risk

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In banking and finance, refinancing risk is the possibility that a borrower cannot refinance by borrowing to repay existing debt. Many types of commercial lending incorporate balloon payments at the point of final maturity; often, the intention or assumption is that the borrower will take out a new loan to pay the existing lenders.

A borrower that cannot refinance their existing debt and does not have sufficient funds on hand to pay their lenders may have a liquidity problem. The borrower may be considered technically insolvent: even though their assets are greater than their liabilities, they cannot raise the liquid funds to pay their creditors. Insolvency may lead to bankruptcy, even when the borrower has a positive net worth.

In order to repay the debt at maturity, the borrower that cannot refinance may be forced into a fire sale of assets at a low price, including the borrower's own home and productive assets such as factories and plants.

Most large corporations and banks face this risk to some degree, as they may constantly borrow and repay loans. Refinancing risk increases in periods of rising interest rates, when the borrower may not have sufficient income to afford the interest rate on a new loan.[citation needed]

Most commercial banks provide long term loans, and fund this operation by taking shorter term deposits. In general, refinancing risk is only considered to be substantial for banks in cases of financial crisis, when borrowing funds, such as inter-bank deposits, may be extremely difficult.

Refinancing is also known as “rolling over” debt of various maturities, and so refinancing risk may be referred to as rollover risk.

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