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Cyprus

Government to give depositors, borrowers 25% in Co-op

Harris Georgiades said the biggest risk right now was the possible reversal of civil service pay cuts

The government has decided to hand over 25 per cent of the state-owned Cooperative Central Bank (CCB) to its customers free of charge, Finance Minister Harris Georgiades said on Wednesday.

Georgiades, who was addressing reporters after a cabinet meeting, said the beneficiaries were 350,000 individual co-op customers, depositors, and “reliable borrowers,” according to an emailed statement.

“It’s an extremely important decision, which to a large extent brings the co-op back to the citizens’ hands,” Georgiades said, adding that it is important to secure that with the CCB’s stock exchange listing it can tap capital at any time.

The co-op, rocked by a decision of the financial ombudsman which saw it return €111m to overcharged borrowers, posted a €7m net profit in 2016 and adjusted its 2015 results to reflect a net loss of €176.4m, compared to a net loss €165.6m announced a year ago. In 2014 and 2015, the bank close to €1.7bn from the government which owns 99 per cent of its stock.

The co-op, which is still struggling with €7.2bn in non-performing loans, or 60 per cent of the total, has to seek a stock exchange listing and reduce with subsequent share issues the government’s stake to 25 per cent by 2020 as per commitment to the European Commission’s Directorate General for Competition.

“There is no change in the existing obligations and terms in place for granting this state aid,” the minister said.

“Every individual depositor and every reliable borrower who has at least €2,000 in deposits with reference date March 2017, will have the right until September to receive these shares free of charge,” Georgiades said. “It’s a simple and clear procedure”.

The finance minister said the amount of shares that customers will receive will be determined to 80 per cent based on the average amount of deposits or loans, and to 20 per cent on the actual amount to avoid granting a large number of shares to anyone, and ensure that no new shareholder will have a stake exceeding 0.005 per cent of total shares.

This, he continued, allows compliance with the stock exchange’s regulations regarding the need of a wide dispersion of shares.

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