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Bank towers at Toronto's Bay Street (Fred Lum)
Bank towers at Toronto's Bay Street (Fred Lum)

Officials strike deal on bank capital Add to ...

Global financial regulators on Sunday agreed on new banking rules designed to strengthen bank finances and rein in excessive risk-taking to help prevent another crisis.

Banks will be forced to hold more and safer kinds of capital to offset the risks they take lending money and trading securities, which should make them more resistant to financial shocks such as those of the last several years.

Jean-Claude Trichet, the European Central Bank head and chairman of the committee of central bankers and bank supervisors that agreed on the new rules, called the pact "a fundamental strengthening of global capital standards."

"Their contribution to long term financial stability and growth will be substantial," Mr. Trichet said in a statement.

Some banks have protested however that the new rules may hurt their profitability and cause them to reduce the lending that fuels economic growth, possibly dampening a global economic recovery.

Representatives of major central banks agreed to the deal at a meeting in Basel, Switzerland. The deal still has to be presented to leaders of the Group of 20 forum of rich and developing countries at a meeting in November and ratified by national governments before it comes into force.

The agreement, known as Basel III, is seen as a cornerstone of the global financial reforms proposed by governments following the credit crunch and subsequent economic downturn caused by risky banking practices.

Earlier this year the Brussels-based European Banking Federation warned that the new global rules forcing banks to put aside more capital could keep the euro zone economy in or close to recession through 2014.

The federation said its analysis of proposed new Basel III banking standards would limit euro zone banks' credit growth and profits, hurt the economy and prevent the creation of up to 5 million jobs in the 16 nations that use the euro.

Under the agreement, banks will have six years starting Jan. 1, 2013, to progressively increase their capital reserves. Under current rules banks have to hold back at least 4 per cent of their balance sheet to cover their risks. Starting in 2013, this reserve - known as tier 1 capital - will have to rise to 4.5 per cent, reaching 6 per cent in 2019.

In addition, banks will be required to keep an emergency reserve known as a "conservation buffer" of 2.5 per cent. In total, the amount of rock-solid reserves each bank is expected to have by the end of the decade will be 8.5 per cent of its balance sheet.

Already one bank has cited the new rules as a reason for its plans to tap the market for billions of euros in new capital.

Earlier Sunday, Germany's biggest bank, Deutsche Bank AG, announced plans to raise at least €9.8-billion ($12.4 billion U.S.) in a capital increase.

The planned issue of 308.6 million new common shares is meant primarily to cover the consolidation of Postbank, "but will also support the existing capital base to accommodate regulatory changes and business growth," Deutsche Bank said. It did not elaborate.

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