January 30, 2015 / 4:15 PM / 5 years ago

UPDATE 2-Swiss central bank to pay shareholders 2 bln Sfr for 2014

(Adds shareholder comment)

ZURICH, Jan 30 (Reuters) - Switzerland’s central bank said on Friday it will pay 2 billion Swiss francs ($2.16 billion) to shareholders for 2014 but does not yet know whether a pay-out will be possible for this year after abandoning a cap on the franc against the euro.

The pay-out is nearly double what the Swiss National Bank had told shareholders, which include the federal government and cantons, they could expect.

The central bank signalled that payouts for this year depended on how it fares after removing a cap on the franc two weeks ago, a policy shock which upended financial markets and caused the franc to surge.

“It cannot be determined at this stage whether a profit distribution for 2015 will be possible following the discontinuation of the minimum exchange rate for the Swiss franc against the euro,” the SNB said in a statement.

The SNB’s profits have been a delicate subject politically since 2013’s absence of payouts following a hefty loss on the value of its gold holdings.

Switzerland’s cantons welcomed the top-up, saying that the resilience of public finances had gained in importance.

“The economy and the cantons’ finances face a major challenge from the removal of the franc cap,” the association of cantonal finance directors said in a statement.

Switzerland’s foreign exchange reserves rose to a record high in December after the central bank stepped up intervention in the currency market, and it now holds more than 495 billion francs in foreign currency. ($1 = 0.9267 Swiss francs) (Reporting by Katharina Bart; Editing by Alison Williams)

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