* Rumours of Swedish banks' woes unfounded - authorities
* Some ATMs run out of cash, banks restocking
By Aleks Tapinsh and Simon Johnson
RIGA/STOCKHOLM, Dec 11 Worried Latvians drained
ATMs of cash on Sunday despite assurances from regulators and
bankers that rumours about a problem with Swedbank and other
Swedish banks operating in that Baltic nation were false.
Swedbank and SEB dominate banking in
the country where medium size bank Krajbanka went bust earlier
this month and which has a history of post-Soviet bank
Swedbank and SEB both said they had seen increased
withdrawals on Sunday after rumours spread on Twitter of
problems at Swedish banks. People also reported getting phone
calls from relatives and friends about rumours of bank
"These are totally irrelevant rumours coming out of social
media. The bank's position is more than solid," Swedbank
spokesman Thomas Backteman, said. "The rumours are not only
about us, but about Swedish banks."
Swedbank Latvia chief Maris Mancinskis wrote in a note to
clients on the bank's Website that the rumours were "lies,"
but said activity had been heavier than usual for a Sunday
evening. "If a cash machine becomes empty then it will be
refilled within a couple of hours," he added.
SEB said that out of 234 ATMs, about 10-15 percent were
without money at one point, but the bank continued to restock
In many parts outside the Latvian capital Riga and other
regional towns, long queues formed at cash machines, local
media said. In Riga town centre the queues were short.
One man, standing in a queue at a Swedbank ATM in central
Riga, said he had heard a report the bank was about to go bust.
He declined to give his name. A woman, who also declined to be
identified, said her son had called her and told her to get her
money out of the bank, but that she didn't know anything more.
Latvia's financial services authority said the rumours were
"A groundless wave of rumours has spread this weekend on
Internet media and social Websites about the financial
situation of Swedbank," Latvian regulator FKTK said in a
"The Commission (FKTK) would like to inform the public that
these are only rumours and there is no need for worry about the
financial situation of the bank," it added.
The BNS news service quoted Security Police spokeswoman
Kristine Apse-Krumina saying that the law enforcement
authorities have been alerted to the rumors and increased cash
withdrawals from ATMs.
"At this point, the rumors have no logical grounds," she
said. Spreading false rumours about the banking system is a
Backteman said that at Swedbank - one of the best
capitalised banks in Europe - withdrawals were running at about
three times normal for a Sunday.
Swedbank had core capital of 13.35 percent of risk-weighted
assets at the end of September, according to stress tests
conducted by the European Banking Authority. It has set the
minimum capital level for banks at 9 percent of risk-weighted
Backteman said rumours of Swedish banks having problems had
started about two weeks ago, and resurfaced on Friday.
He said Swedbank, which has has deposits of 1.6 billion
lats ($3.10 billion) in Latvia, was monitoring the situation
and was making sure customers were able to withdraw their money
from the bank if they so wished.
The rumours come weeks after Latvijas Krajbanka collapsed
following the takeover of its parent in Lithuania by the
government, amid allegations of fraud against the former
The collapse in 2008 of Latvia's second-biggest lender,
Parex bank, forced the country to take a bailout from the
International Monetary Fund and European Union.