BRUSSELS Depositors and senior debt holders would be shielded from losses in any bank restructurings ordered by the European Commission, a senior Commission official said on Friday in the latest attempt to reassure savers that they would not be hit by bank problems.
Gert-Jan Koopman, deputy director-general for state aid at the EU executive body, said shareholders and junior debt holders would bear the burden under updated state aid rules that are set to come into force in August.
"If necessary, equity will be fully written down. The same goes for junior debt. But senior debt holders or depositors will not be required to be bailed in," Koopman told Reuters.
Concerns arose about whether depositors would be hit in bank rescues after Cyprus controversially forced savers to foot part of the bill for bailing out its banks in March.
Under current EU state aid rules, shareholders and junior debt holders only lose their dividends or coupons.
Koopman said rescued banks, which need EU regulatory approval for their bailouts, would have to exploit their capital-raising ability to the maximum extent possible.
"Often banks have other means of contribution. One is to reduce their risk-weighted assets," Koopman said.
He told a conference organised by the European State Aid Law Institute that the updated rules would draw on the bailout model applied in Spain, which last year tapped 41.5 billion euros of a 100-billion-euro credit line for its financial system.
This means banks would have to get the Commission's approval for their restructuring plan before they are allowed to receive state aid, marking a change from the current practice which has in some cases resulted in spats between regulators and national authorities.
"We are raising the bar for everyone, for all 27 member states," Koopman said.
The European Commission is updating its rules governing when countries are allowed to assist banks in trouble. As regulator in such state-aid cases across the European Union, it has the power to set conditions, including the restructuring of a bank, or freezing dividend and coupon payments.
The Commission has cleared 62 bank rescues to date related to the financial and debt crises, with another 28 still pending.
(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Editing by John O'Donnell and Mark Trevelyan)