Iran devalues rial rate by more than half

Updated 07 July 2013

Iran devalues rial rate by more than half

TEHRAN: Iran's central bank yesterday drastically devalued the national currency's fixed subsidized rate against the dollar, as the Islamic republic struggles to shore up its faltering economy.
The rial has lost more than two thirds of its value on the open market since early 2012, when the United States and the European Union imposed harsh economic sanctions curbing Iran's ability to export oil and conduct financial transactions.
The central bank yesterday was selling one US dollar for 24,779 rials at the subsidized rate available only to select importers to procure basic commodities and medicine, according to the bank's website at http://cbi.ir
That rate was a 102-percent increase from 12,260 rials for one dollar that had been kept artificially low since January 2012.
The new "reference" rate is still far stronger than the dollar available to ordinary buyers and travelers at the unofficial open market, which was 33,200 rials per dollar at midday.
By increasing the so-called reference rate, the central bank scrapped its rate used at an "exchange center" that put goods importers in contact with exporters to exchange funds at a rate of around 25,000 to the dollar.
The exchange center, launched late last September, had managed to control the rial's free fall amid increasing international pressure on Iran.
Suspecting Iran's nuclear program has military objectives, Western powers have reinforced a raft of economic sanctions aimed at coercing it into cutting back on uranium enrichment despite Tehran's insistence its atomic ambitions are peaceful.
The sanctions have cost the country billions in vital oil revenues and left it struggling with a shrinking economy, raging inflation and high unemployment.
Yesterday's development came after days of media reports and official denials about pending changes on the official currency market.
According to reports, the budget for the year ending in March 2014 — signed by outgoing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in mid-June but the details are not publicized — gave the central bank permission to increase the official exchange rate.
Ahmadinejad's critics accuse his government of misusing the now scrapped cheap dollar, and of failing to feed the market with sufficient foreign currency or provide funds earmarked for essential goods including medicines.
The price of medicine has risen sharply in the past year.
In June, the Health Ministry's Shams-Ali Rezazadeh said the price of domestically produced drugs was set to rise by at least 35 percent, while imported medicine would go up by an average of 90 percent.


Commerzbank slapped with fine for deals with defunct Cypriot bank

Updated 05 July 2020

Commerzbank slapped with fine for deals with defunct Cypriot bank

  • Laiki, once Cyprus’s second-largest bank, was taken into administration and wound down in March 2013

FRANKFURT: Cyprus’s securities regulator has imposed a €650,000 ($730,800) fine on Germany’s Commerzbank for its role in transactions carried out by a local bank that collapsed during the country’s 2013 financial crisis.

The country’s CySEC commission said Commerzbank had been sanctioned over investment operations conducted by the now-defunct Laiki — also known as Cyprus Popular Bank — in 2011, following Laiki’s merger with Greece’s Marfin-Egnatia Bank.

Commerzbank declined to comment on the case, which followed an eight-year probe by Cypriot authorities.

The investigation, which was launched following calls by left-wing AKEL lawmaker Irene Charalambides, looked into whether the Cypriot deals may have broken laws prohibiting a company from buying its own stock.

CySEC said Laiki invested in two structured products issued by Commerzbank in 2008. Marfin-Egnatia, which was at that time a Laiki subsidiary, was an index sponsor responsible for the composition of the portfolio.

As a result of the 2011 merger between Laiki and Marfin-Egnatia, Laiki became the index sponsor, creating a conflict of interest, CySEC said.

It said Laiki and Commerzbank acted in “concert” to manipulate the market in relation to Laiki shares on several occasions in April and May 2011.

CySEC said it had not fined Laiki because it is in administration and did not want to put an additional burden on former depositors, bond holders and shareholders.

Laiki, once Cyprus’s second-largest bank, was taken into administration and wound down under terms of a €10 billion international financial assistance package to Cyprus in March 2013.

Some €4.3 billion in uninsured deposits exceeding the EU threshold of 100,000 were wiped out, and thousands of people lost their life savings.

Charalambides said she felt vindicated by the result of the investigation.

“The resolution authority should consider the possibility of civil lawsuits against Commerzbank to ensure that the funds channelled to these structured bonds, with the objective of manipulating shares, be returned, and given to depositors whose funds were subjected to a haircut,” she said in a statement.