Polish central bank says franc borrowers may need more state help

WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland may need to do more to help local banks and their clients deal with the surge in the Swiss franc's value, central bank chief Marek Belka said on Wednesday, after the move drove up the mortgage costs of 550,000 Poles.

Poland's financial institutions, including the central bank and financial market watchdog KNF, have already pressed banks to provide relief for homeowners faced with soaring repayments on mortgage loans denominated in francs.

"I do not know if, at some point, there will be a need of a bigger role of state institutions," Marek Belka said in a local television TVP Info.

Polish Finance Minister Mateusz Szczurek called on local banks earlier this week to amend loan rates by applying the below-zero interest rates of Switzerland, and some banks already said they were heeding the call.

Swiss franc mortgages became popular in central and eastern Europe in the 2000s because of their low interest rates.

The head of Poland's financial watchdog Andrzej Jakubiak said that Swiss franc loan conversions into Polish zloty would also be considered.

"It is good that such propositions are coming up, but whether banks would decide to go for it depends on the details," Belka said, referring to conversion.

(Reporting by Agnieszka Barteczko; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)

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