February 13, 2011 / 4:42 PM / 8 years ago

Egypt declares bank holiday after worker strikes

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt declared Monday a bank holiday after workers emboldened by the ousting of President Hosni Mubarak and angered by low wages and poor working conditions disrupted operations at the country’s state banks.

The Egyptian pound was little changed in slow trade on Sunday, the first day of trading since President Hosni Mubarak was toppled from power on Friday, and the central bank said it had successfully covered an auction of 6.5 billion Egyptian pounds ($1.1 billion) in treasury bills.

Banks were already due to be closed on Tuesday, an official holiday marking the Prophet Mohamed’s birthday.

“Employees are demanding higher salaries,” Deputy Central Bank Governor Hisham Ramez said by telephone, adding that the strikes were mainly at state and not private banks.

Tarek Amer, chairman of state-owned National Bank of Egypt, the country’s biggest commercial bank, submitted his resignation on Sunday after angry employees prevented him from reaching his office, bankers said.

The central bank, responsible for the state banks, had not yet accepted the resignation, the bankers added.

CURRENCY LITTLE CHANGED

The currency closed the day unchanged from Thursday at around 5.878 to the U.S. dollar, forex dealers said.

Volume was low because of a decline in business activity after nearly three weeks of political protests that shut down large swaths of the economy and because of new central bank guidelines that lengthened the clearance period for large transfers of funds abroad, bankers said.

Egyptians seeking to transfer funds outside the country will have to wait five days after the transaction is made instead of the previous two before the money is transferred.

“This is so that no money is laundered and to prevent transfers by politically connected people,” a banker said.

One trader in a bank treasury said the longer wait was being applied to transfers of $100,000 or more.

The government sold 3 billion pounds of 91-day and 3.5 billion pounds of 266-day treasury bills on Sunday at its third auction since banks reopened from a week-long closure.

The entire amount offered by the central bank was covered, with the average yield on the 91-day bills declining to 10.949 percent from 10.972 percent at an auction last week. The yield on the 266-day bills was 11.676 percent.

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