Monday, June 6, 2011

European Central Bank risks being 'wiped out' by bail-outs

The European Central Bank is "looking increasingly vulnerable" and may face "hefty losses" as a result of propping up indebted eurozone countries, a leading think-tank has warned.

The International Monetary Fund's partner in the recent international bail-out missions is itself in danger of becoming a liability, Open Europe has argued.

In a report published on Monday entitled A House Built on Sand?, Open Europe has calculated that the ECB has a total exposure of about €444bn (£397bn) to "struggling eurozone economies".

The bank is now "23 to 24 times levered" as a result of bailing out Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain.

The London-based think tank argued: "Should the ECB see its assets fall by just 4.23pc in value . . . its entire capital base would be wiped out."

Open Europe said: "Hefty losses for the ECB are no longer a remote risk." It added: "The ECB is ultimately underwritten by taxpayers which means there is a hidden – and potentially huge – cost of the eurozone crisis to taxpayers buried in the ECB's books." (read more)