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Bookies offer odds on euro zone breakup Add to ...

The euro just celebrated its 10th anniversary this weekend, but it isn’t exactly basking in praise and congratulations.

Instead, the currency finds itself the target of rampant breakup speculation as experts predict a rupture and bookmakers take bets on its collapse.

The U.K.’s Centre for Economics and Business Research kicked off the New Year by predicting the single European currency could start to fall apart this year.

How likely is such a scenario? It reckons there is a 60 per cent chance that at least one country parts ways with the euro this year. Within the next decade, the London-based think tank believes there is a 99 per cent chance that a country will leave the euro zone.

“It now looks as though 2012 will be the year when the euro starts to break up,” the CEBR said in a statement on its website.

The bleak outlook for the euro compares with the excitement that surrounded its introduction on Jan. 1, 2002, across 12 countries on the European continent. Consumers and businesses forgot about their old banknotes like the Italian lira and the Deutsche Mark and quickly adapted to their new coins and bills. A decade later, the euro is legal tender in 17 European countries.

But the debt woes that have spread across Europe to Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Spain and Italy have put the euro on some experts’ endangered currency list. Several countries are slashing spending and hiking taxes to receive bailouts from euro zone partners, which are weighing on economic growth, according to Tim Ohlenburg, a senior economist at CEBR.

“The main driver would be people in a country take the decision it’s not in their interest to be in the euro any longer,” Mr. Ohlenburg said. He believes that the most affected countries by the debt crisis -- Greece, Portugal and Ireland -- would be the most likely candidates to leave.

Gambling companies are betting that others will share a similar pessimistic view on the future of the euro. Paddy Power PLC, an Irish bookmaker, has offered bets since April, 2011, on both the euro zone’s split and on which country will be the first to leave.

The odds for a euro zone breakup by the end of 2012 are 4/6 and 2/9 for 2015, with the majority of bets on the latter scenario, according to a Paddy Power spokesman.

As for which country will leave first, half the bets have been on Greece, according to Paddy Power. Greece’s odds are 3/10 compared with 7/1 for Portugal, 8/1 for Ireland, 12/1 for Italy, Germany and Spain, and 14/1 for France. The odds for Italy, Ireland, Spain and Portugal have all shortened, according to the spokesman.

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