Greek central bank asks ECB to allow emergency bank lending line if needed

Sat Jan 17, 2015 8:08am EST
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By George Georgiopoulos

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece's central bank has moved to protect its banks from any fallout from the coming general election, asking the European Central Bank to approve a stand-by domestic emergency funding line, a Bank of Greece official said on Saturday.

The move comes after two major banks applied to be able to tap an emergency liquidity assistance (ELA) window on Friday as Greeks withdraw cash before the snap election on Jan. 25.

"We have sent a request to the ECB on ELA approval for all four major banks to have a shield for the banking system," the official said, declining to be named.

"It is up to each bank to decide whether it will use the funding line," the official added without providing further details.

Greece's radical left-wing Syriza party is leading in polls. It wants to end austerity and renegotiate debt with its European partners.

Under ELA, national central banks can lend to commercial banks but have to get approval from the ECB to do so.

Greek banks relied on it heavily at the peak of the debt crisis in 2012 but had repaid it by early last year.

On Friday, executives at Eurobank (EURBr.AT: Quote) and Alpha Bank (ACBr.AT: Quote) said their banks' requests for an ELA funding line were precautionary and partly related to their exposure to Swiss franc mortgages.   Continued...

Tourists look at the temple of the Parthenon on the Acropolis hill on the eve of World Tourism Day (WTD) in Athens September 26, 2014. REUTERS/Yorgos Karahalis