Banks are repaying a much lower-than-expected €61.1 billion in emergency loans they got last year from the European Central Bank in a sign that the region's troubles with shaky lenders are not going away.

The ECB had offered banks cheap three-year loans in December 2011 and February 2012 in an effort to stabilise the banking system hit by the European debt crisis.

Banks had the right to repay the loans after a year.

Higher repayments would be seen as a sign banks are solid enough to finance themselves.

Today's figures were for the banks which took €529.5 billion in 2012.

Of the 800 banks that took the loans, repayments are coming from 356 banks.

Financial markets had expected repayments of around €125-130 billion.