RIGA/STOCKHOLM, Dec 11 (Reuters) - Swedish lender Swedbank said on Sunday that queues of people withdrawing money at its cash machines in Latvia were due to a false rumour spread by social media that Swedish banks had problems.
“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.”
Short queues formed in Latvian capital Riga at some machines to withdraw money. Latvian media said queues were longer in other regions. The rumours began on the social networking service Twitter, prompting some panicky withdrawals of funds.
Latvia’s financial services authority said the rumours were unfounded.
“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 statement.
“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.
Backteman said Swedbank — one of the best capitalised banks in Europe — had seen an increase in withdrawals from its cash machines in parts of Latvia.
“It is about three times the withdrawals we would normally see in a weekend,” he said.
Latvia’s banking sector, which has more than 30 commercial banks, is dominated by Nordic banking groups such as Swedbank and SEB .
SEB, the second biggest player after Swedbank in the Baltics, had no immediate comment.
Backteman said rumours that Swedish banks were having problems had started about two weeks ago, and resurfaced on Friday.
He said Swedbank 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 just weeks after Latvijas Krajbanka collapsed following the takeover of its parent in Lithuania by the government.
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.