Introduction of euro could coin Bank pounds 1bn

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The Independent Online
The Bank of England stands to gain nearly pounds 1bn a year by joining the single European currency. In contrast, the Bundesbank, Europe's most profitable central bank, could lose out by more than pounds 1.5bn.

France's central bank has most to gain by ditching the franc for the euro, which could make it pounds 2.2bn better off, according to research by Central Banking, a quarterly journal.

The Bank of Italy could benefit to the tune of pounds 1bn, while Portugal, Greece, Finland and Luxembourg could also be winners. All seven countries gain at the expense of Ireland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Austria, Denmark, Spain, Germany and Sweden, which has most to lose by taking part in monetary union.

The research is based on the assumption that all 15 countries join the single currency in 1999.

It also assumes that the profits of the European Central Bank, due to be formed in 1999, will be shared among member states according to their population and contribution to the GDP of the European Union.

Based on those assumptions the Bank of England would "own" just over 15 per cent of the European Central Bank, which would have made pounds 15.4bn of profit last year, calculated by adding together the profits of the individual central banks.

The Bank of England was one of Europe's most profitable banks in 1995 and stands to gain because its shareholding in the European Central Bank would yield a greater profit than it currently makes.

Germany, France and Italy would own larger stakes. However, Germany's 22 per cent shareholding would yield a smaller profit than the Bundesbank currently makes. Last year the Bundesbank made a profit of pounds 5bn.

Central banks can generate profits by setting a "minimum reserve requirement" which requires commercial banks to keep a proportion of their assets with the central bank.

Central banks also make fees by providing debt management and other services to government or regulatory and settlement services to banks.

They also make money on seignorage - the income from the assets held against the notes and coins in issuance.

Comparing the profits of central banks - which in most instances end up in the pockets of government - is tricky because they use different accounting methods and conduct different operations.