Greeks seen slowly returning cash to banks

Wed Jun 27, 2012 9:32am EDT

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By George Georgiopoulos

ATHENS, June 27 (Reuters) - Millions of euros are trickling back into Greek banks from savers reassured by the result of the June 17 election, though amounts remain a fraction of what was withdrawn ahead of the poll, bankers said on Wednesday.

Bankers said the pace of deposit inflows set immediately after the vote had slowed, but money was still returning after the formation of a conservative-led government reduced the chances of the country crashing out of the euro zone, at least in the short to medium term.

Yannis Stournaras, a liberal economist who was named finance minister on Tuesday, told a book presentation hours before his appointment that total inflows after the vote had touched 2 billion euros ($2.5 billion).

That is still well below the sum that Greeks withdrew in the days leading up to the election, when up to 800 million euros was flying out daily from major Greek lenders, according to bankers.

"It is mostly money stashed at home that is returning. We are seeing about 10 million euros a day, down from about 15 to 20 million previously," said a banker at small Greek lender, who asked not to be named.

Much of the withdrawals had been stashed away at home or in safe deposit boxes, out of fear that victory for the radical leftist Syriza bloc committed to tearing up the terms of Greece's international bailout could send the country back to the drachma currency.

A second banker at a large Greek bank said: "The numbers are not huge but there is a daily return. We are seeing about 20 million euros brought back daily."

Between the onset of the debt crisis in late 2009 and April 2012, Greek banks had lost around 30 percent of their deposit base, or 72 billion euros. Outflows have picked up at times of acute political instability.

NO BIG REVERSAL

The pool of household and business bank deposits shrank from 238 billion euros in December 2009 to 166 billion in April, based on Greek central bank data.

Though small savers may be slowly bringing back their cash, the private banking sector has not seen a big reversal of outflows.

"We have not seen any serious return of private banking money that was sent abroad," said one private banker at a mid-sized bank, while another private banker at a small bank said: "We had some clients return funds, transactions of 700 to 800,000 euros, but this will take time".

Deposit outflows and the so-called cash burn as Greeks tap savings to pay bills, has forced banks - without access to interbank funding - to derive liquidity from the European Central Bank and the Bank of Greece.

ECB funding for Greek banks dropped to 62 billion euros in April from 78.9 billion in March, while borrowing from the national central bank's emergency liquidity assistance (ELA) facility reached 59 billion euros.

The radical leftist Syriza came a strong second in the June 17 vote but the government was formed last week by the first-placed New Democracy party in a coalition with the Socialist PASOK and small Democratic Left.

Responding to intense public pressure, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has said he wants to renegotiate the punishing bailout conditions, but not at the risk of leaving the euro.

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