Thursday, October 16, 2008

Romania's BCR bank launches gold-linked deposits

BUCHAREST, Oct 15 (Reuters) - Romania's biggest bank BCR, owned by Austria's Erste Bank (ERST.VI: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) ERST.BX, has launched a deposit facility for individuals with an interest rate tied to increases in the price of gold.

Commercial banks in central Europe have so far shown more resilience to the global credit crisis compared with their western peers, thanks to their reliance on local deposits and limited exposure to toxic real-estate related instruments.

In Romania, where consumer spending has been particularly rampant, some banks have cranked up interest rates to some savers by 2-3 percentage points in recent months, often exceeding the central bank's benchmark interest rate of 10.25.

Over the last year, the central bank has raised interest rates by 325 basis points in a bid to douse rising inflationary pressures which had brought the annual price growth to a three-year high of 9 percent in July.

"We introduced this product in October, in a bid to diversify our retail products and boost savings and investment," said Sorin Mititelu, head of BCR's business development and retail products department.

The bank said the product would only be available in the month of October.

The deposit would have a maturity of six months and would pay an annual interest rate of 30 percent of any percentage increase in the price of gold on the London market. A fall in the gold price would mean no interest would be paid on the sum deposited.

Spot gold on the London Metal Exchange was trading around $846 an ounce on Wednesday, only slightly higher than at the start of the year and 18 percent below its record high of $1,030.80 an ounce struck in mid-March.

Interest rates levied on leu deposits in Romania, which joined the European Union in 2007, average around 9 percent for the six-month maturity. (Reporting by Radu Marinas; Editing by David Cowell)

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