Cyprus details heavy losses for major bank customers

March 30, 2013

Major depositors in Cyprus’ biggest bank will lose around 60 percent of their savings over 100,000 euros, the central bank confirmed Saturday, sharpening the terms of a bailout that has shaken Europe but saved the island from bankruptcy.

Initial signs that big depositors in the Bank of Cyprus would take a hit of 30 to 40 percent — the first time the euro zone has made bank customers contribute to a bailout — had already unnerved investors in European lenders last week.

But the official decree published Saturday confirmed a Friday report that the bank would give depositors shares worth just 37.5 percent of savings over 100,000 euros ($128,200). The rest might never be paid back.

The terms send a clear signal that the bailout means the end of Cyprus as a hub for offshore finance and could accelerate economic decline on the island.

Banks reopened to relative calm Thursday after the imposition of the first capital controls the euro has seen since it was launched a decade ago. Cypriots, however, are angry at the price attached to the rescue — the winding down of the island’s second-largest bank, Cyprus Popular Bank, called Laiki, and the raid on deposits over 100,000 euros.

Under the terms of Saturday’s decree, Laiki’s assets will be transferred to the Bank of Cyprus, where about 22.5 percent of deposits over 100,000 euros will earn no interest. The remaining 40 percent will continue to earn interest, but it will not be repaid unless the bank does well.

Nicosia was filled with crowds relaxing in cafes and bars Saturday, but popular anger was not hard to find. “Europe shouldn’t have allowed this disaster to happen here. Cyprus was paradise, and they’ve turned it into hell,” said Tryfonas Neokleous, a clothes shop owner.

There are no signs that bank customers in other struggling ­euro-zone countries such as Greece, Italy and Spain are taking fright at the bailout precedent.

“Cyprus is and will remain a special one-off case,” German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble told Germany’s mass daily Bild. “Savings accounts in Europe are safe.”


Women withdraw money from ATMs at a branch of the Bank of Cyprus at Eleftheria square in Nicosia on Saturday. (BOGDAN CRISTEL/REUTERS)

— Reuters

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