Cyprus' biggest bank has strong capital buffers after grab on uninsured deposits

  • Article by: MENELAOS HADJICOSTIS , Associated Press
  • Updated: July 30, 2013 - 11:35 AM

NICOSIA, Cyprus — Cyprus' biggest bank is returning to good health after the international bailout which saw depositors sacrificing some of their savings, the country's central bank said Tuesday.

The central bank said that the Bank of Cyprus' key capital ratio — a measure of a bank's health — stands at around 12 percent after depositors were forced to lose 47.5 percent of their savings over 100,000 euros ($132,840).

The bank's capital ratio before March when Cyprus agreed on a 23 billion-euro ($30.5 billion) bailout with its euro partners and the International Monetary Fund was less than 5 percent.

The deposit grab at Bank of Cyprus and the smaller, now defunct, Laiki Bank was a key condition for Cyprus to qualify for a 10 billion euro loan from Cyprus' fellow euro countries and the International Monetary Fund.

Bank of Cyprus officials estimate the total loss for savers at their bank to be about 4 billion euros. All savings under 100,000 euros are insured under European Union law.

Trust in the Cyprus' financial sector dwindled in the aftermath of the so-called "bail-in" agreement, prompting authorities to slap restrictions on money withdrawals and transfers for all banks to head off a run.

"The recapitalization of the Bank of Cyprus and its exit from resolution are key milestones in the rejuvenation of (the bank's) financial standing which will underpin its resilience and ability to support the Cyprus economy and thus assist in stabilizing the financial sector," the central bank said in a statement.

The depositors hardest hit by the bail-in were pension funds belonging to employees for state-run companies, followed by private savers of which some of the biggest are Russians.

The country's central bank has also outlined arrangements for returning the 52.5 percent of the depositors' savings over 100,000 euros that weren't used in the bail-in.

Some 10 percent of total deposits have already been returned to savers and another 5 percent — held in reserve until the bank's overall recapitalization needs were calculated — will be returned in the coming days. That money however, will still be subject to existing capital controls.

The remaining 37.5 percent will be split into three separate deposits which will be returned to the saver after six, nine and 12 months. These deposits will receive an interest rate higher than the going market rate and can be used to pay off the savers' debt — either credit card, loan or overdraft facilities — with the bank. However, the Bank of Cyprus will have the option to delay the funds' return for a further period.

The depositors will also get shares in the bank.

Depositors at Laiki, which is being folded into Bank of Cyprus, saw most of their uninsured savings wiped out. They won't get any shares in Bank of Cyprus, but will receive some cash compensation from the eventual sale of the banks' assets.

Many Laiki depositors have launched legal action in a bid to reclaim all their money.

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