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Europe's banks face $323 billion capital hole

LONDON (Reuters) - Europe's top banks would have had to raise 242 billion euros ($323 billion) or more to achieve minimum capital ratios if tougher rules that are coming in for the industry had been in force last year.

The European Banking Authority (EBA) said on Wednesday that if the Basel III capital rules had been in force at the end of June then 27 of Europe's top 48 banks would have had a minimum core Tier 1 capital adequacy ratio of less than 7 percent of assets, which is the target level for banks to meet when new rules come into force.

Basel III will be formally phased in from January 2013.

Ten banks, or a fifth of those assessed, would have had core capital of less than the 4.5 percent.

Banks would need to raise 242 billion euros in aggregate to reach 7 percent, the EBA said.

Its assessment indicates Basel III rules could hit banks even harder than many in the industry had feared. The average core capital for big banks would have dropped to 6.5 percent under the rules at the end of June, from their reported core capital level of 10.2 percent, the EBA said.

($1 = 0.7497 euros)

(Reporting by Steve Slater and Huw Jones; Editing by Greg Mahlich)