Basel III no further strain for BAWAG owners, CEO claims

BAWAG boss Byron Haynes has denied claims Cerberus Capital Management considered leaving the Austrian bank sooner than planned following the introduction of stricter banking regulations.Haynes stressed today (Weds) speculations that the US American investor would sell BAWAG sooner than expected because of the Basel III agreement were wrong. Cerberus committed to remain on board for at least five years after it bought a major stake in the former workers’ union bank for 3.2 billion Euros in 2007.”All international banks face extra pressure,” Haynes argued, adding that BAWAG was “efficiently capitalised”.BAWAG was not among the 91 European banks which underwent a so-called stress test earlier this year to find out how badly they would be affected by another global crisis. Some analysts criticised that only the continent’s biggest institutes’ equity ratio were checked, while struggling and smaller banks were left out.Haynes announced today BAWAG’s current Tier 1 equity ratio was “almost nine per cent”, while its core capital rate reached “around six per cent”. The new Basel III rules force institutes to hold a 4.5 per cent Tier 1 equity ratio by 2015.The BAWAG chief claimed Cerberus was not hit by the ruling due to its transitional period.Business newspapers claimed recently BAWAG bosses planned to lay off around 500 employees to save around 60 million Euros in costs over the next three years.The bank has received around 500 million Euros of state aid since last year to get through the economic downturn. It suffered losses of 22.2 million Euros in 2009 after a loss of 547.5 million Euros the previous year.Rumour has it that BAWAG has been looking for a “strategic partner” to stabilise its own position on the market.Volksbank AG (ÖVAG) was named as a possible cooperation partner of BAWAG. ÖVAG suffered losses of 1.123 billion Euros after taxes last year.Turmoil at BAWAG increased in June when businessman Hannes Androsch claimed Cerberus would quit its engagement in Austria “in the foreseeable future”. The Former Social Democratic (SPÖ) finance minister who holds a stake in BAWAG.Only a few days earlier, influential board member Regina Prehofer announced she would leave the bank a year early. Her contract would have expired in September 2011.Prehofer dismissed reports she decided to quit over differences of opinion with the institute’s American owner. “My decision is a very personal one. My resignation will happen as part of a mutual agreement,” she announced.Haynes said today Prehofer’s successor will be presented next month.The BAWAG head also announced that the process of selling Stiefelkönig was ongoing. Haynes remained tight-lipped over whether the shoe chain was currently operating profitably. He explained some departments made turnover while others did not.Haynes also said he had no schedule in mind when it came to returning the state subsidiary BAWAG received over the past one and a half years.Asked how much extra burden the planned bank solidarity tax could cause BAWAG – Austria’s fourth-biggest bank – he announced: “If there will be no change that the government demands an overall 500 million Euros a year from the country’s leading banks, I think it will cause us additional costs of 20 to 30 million Euros annually.”Social Democratic (SPÖ) Chancellor Werner Faymann said earlier this year he could imagine demanding half a million Euros from Austria’s biggest bank institutes. Faymann, however, also stressed that representatives of the banks and the government coalition were set to agree on the details.People’s Party (ÖVP) Finance Minister Josef Pröll stressed his party agreed with the SPÖ on introducing the levy from next year.Faymann called the bank tax a “reasonable measure” after the government helped the biggest banks of the country with around 6.5 billion Euros of state aid in 2009.Some Social Democrats also want to introduce a tax on financial transactions within Austria, while ÖVP officials made clear they would only support such a ruling if it affected all 16 Eurozone countries or all 27 member states of the European Union (EU). The ÖVP warned Austria would suffer as a location for doing business if the tax came into effect only on a federal level.