BRUSSELS - Cyprus secured a package of rescue loans in tense, last-ditch negotiations early today, two EU diplomats said, saving the country from a banking system collapse and bankruptcy.
The cash-strapped island nation needs a $13 billion bailout to recapitalize its ailing lenders and keep the government afloat. The European Central Bank had threatened to cut crucial emergency assistance to the country's banks by Tuesday without an agreement.
The finance ministers of the 17-nation eurozone accepted the plan reached in 10 hours of negotiations in Brussels between Cypriot officials and the so-called troika of creditors: the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission and the ECB.
Under the plan, Cyprus' second-largest bank, Laiki, will be restructured and holders of bank deposits of more than 100,000 euros will have to take losses, the diplomats said. They spoke on condition of anonymity pending the official announcement. It was not immediately clear whether the holders of large deposits in the remaining Cypriot banks would equally be forced to take losses.
The diplomats also did not elaborate on how much large deposit holders would lose. Making them take a hit is expected to net several billion euros, reducing the amount of rescue loans the country needs.
Without a deal by this evening, the tiny Mediterranean island nation of about 1 million would have faced the prospect of bankruptcy, which could force it to abandon the euro currency and spur turmoil in the eurozone of 300 million people.
To secure a rescue loan package, Nicosia had to find ways to raise 5.8 billion euros so it could qualify for the 10 billion euro bailout package. The bulk of that money is now being raised by forcing losses on large deposit holders as well as bond holders in Laiki bank, which will be split into a bad bank of toxic assets and a remaining viable core business.
But Cyprus resisted pressure by creditors to also unwind the country's largest lender, Bank of Cyprus, the diplomat said.