Australia exposure to Cypriot levy limited
Just two years ago, Australians had nearly $1.6 billion in deposits tied up with Australian-based subsidiaries of Cypriot banks.
At the same time, Cypriot banks had just shy of $2 billion in loans spread through the economy here. Most of these were small business and housing loans, with banks such as Laiki Bank or Bank of Cyprus targeting the Cypriot community.
In 2011, a majority stake in Cyprus-backed Laiki Bank Australia was sold to Bank of Beirut - Lebanon's biggest bank - for $420 million. Laiki was renamed Beirut Hellenic Bank, with Bank of Beirut retaining an option to move from its existing 92.5 per cent holding to full ownership.
Later that year, regional lender Bendigo and Adelaide Bank paid $130 million for the local arm of Bank of Cyprus Group, a move that marked the European bank's exit from Australia.
Rather than fold the business into the broader Bendigo, the regional lender has since renamed Bank of Cyprus as Delphi Bank to give it a distinct identity. At the time of the deal, executives from Bendigo noted the high quality of the Bank of Cyprus lending book. Of more than $1 billion in loans, just a handful were classed as non-performing, with almost the entire lending book backed by property.
Even if the local banks continued to be controlled by Cyprus-based banks, banking rules require them to operate as their own stand-alone business with a local board.
All foreign banks operating in Australia come under the scrutiny of bank regulator the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority.
While Europe has imposed tax on Cypriot bank deposits to help pay for the €10 billion bailout, this tax would not have extended to Australian-based subsidiaries.
Even so, Australians that have funds on deposit in banks in Cyprus would still face being hit with the new bank levy, which includes a scaling tax on deposits that starts at 6.75 per cent.
Australian banking exposure to Cyprus is small, running at just $76 million, according to Bank for International Settlements figures.