Annual accounts of the European Central Bank for the year ending 31 December 2002

20 March 2003

The Governing Council of the European Central Bank (ECB) today approved the audited annual accounts of the ECB for the year ending 31 December 2002.

The ECB made a net profit of 1,220 million in 2002, after payment of remuneration of 1,141 million to the national central banks (NCBs) on their claims in respect of the foreign reserve assets transferred by them to the ECB.

The regular income of the ECB is derived primarily from investment earnings on its holdings of foreign reserve assets and its paid-up capital of 4.1 billion, and ­ since the beginning of 2002 ­ from interest income on its 8% share of euro banknotes in circulation. The ECB earned total net interest income of 995 million from all sources, including 727 million on its share of the euro banknote issue, compared with 771 million in 2001. Thus, net interest income excluding that from euro banknotes fell to 268 million. The main reason for this reduction was the fall in both US dollar and euro interest rates during the year.

The ECB's administrative expenses on salaries and related costs, rental of premises, and goods and services amounted to 372 million, including costs of 118 million relating to the central funding of the establishment of a Eurosystem strategic stock of banknotes. This compares with expenses of 283 million in 2001, which were significantly affected by the costs incurred that year in connection with the Euro 2002 Information Campaign. Depreciation charges on fixed assets amounted to 18 million. At the end of 2002, the ECB employed 1,105 staff (including 79 at managerial levels) compared with 1,043 one year earlier.

In accordance with the accounting principles of the Eurosystem, unrealised exchange rate and market price valuation gains on the ECB's holdings of foreign currency assets and gold are not recognised as profit, but are transferred directly to revaluation accounts. These accounts stood at some 4 billion, compared with some 9 billion at the end of 2001. The principal factor contributing to this decrease was the depreciation of the US dollar vis-à-vis the euro in the latter part of 2002.

The Governing Council decided today that the ECB's net profit of 1,220 million should be allocated as follows:

2002 2001
Transfer to general reserve fund 0 364 million
Income on the ECB's share of euro banknotes in circulation (distributed to NCBs on 3 January 2003) 606 million 0
Distributable to NCBs 614 million 1,458 million
Total 1,220 million 1,822 million

The annual accounts will also be published in the ECB's Annual Report on 29 April 2003.

Notes for editors

  1. Accounting policies of the ECB: Common accounting policies have been established by the Governing Council for the Eurosystem, including the ECB, in accordance with Article 26.4 of the Statute of the European System of Central Banks and of the European Central Bank (Statute of the ESCB), and have been published in the Official Journal of the European Union([1]). Although generally based on internationally accepted accounting practice, these policies were designed with special regard for the unique circumstances of central banks: they pay particular attention to the issue of prudence given the large exposures that central banks bear in foreign exchange. This prudent approach applies particularly to the differing treatment of unrealised gains and unrealised losses for the purpose of recognising income, and to the prohibition against netting unrealised losses on one asset against unrealised gains on another. Although all NCBs are required to follow these policies for the purpose of reporting their operations as part of the Eurosystem, which are included in the Eurosystem's weekly consolidated financial statements, they are not obliged to follow them in the preparation of their own annual accounts unless required to do so by local legislation. In practice, all NCBs voluntarily apply broadly the same policies as the ECB in preparing their own annual financial statements.
  2. Remuneration of foreign reserve assets transferred to the ECB: The Governing Council may decide the denomination and remuneration of the resultant claims of NCBs on the ECB. Pursuant to Article 30.3 of the Statute of the ESCB, the Governing Council decided that these claims should be denominated in euro, and should be remunerated on a daily basis at the latest main refinancing rate of the Eurosystem (the two-week euro repo rate), adjusted to take account of the zero rate of return on the gold component. For 2002, this remuneration resulted in an interest expense of some 1,141 million..
  3. Distribution of profits: Pursuant to Article 33.1 of the Statute of the ESCB, up to 20% of the profit in any year may be transferred to the general reserve fund subject to a limit equal to 100% of the ECB's capital. The remaining net profit is to be distributed to the NCBs, as shareholders of the ECB, in proportion to their paid-up shares. The Governing Council has decided to make no transfer of net profit to the general reserve fund for the year ending 31 December 2002.
  4. Distribution of the ECB's income on euro banknotes in circulation: The ECB's income on euro banknotes in circulation is due in full to the NCBs in the same financial year it accrues and is distributed separately to the NCBs in proportion to their paid-up shares in the subscribed capital of the ECB([2]). This interim income distribution may be reduced, if the Governing Council so decides, in respect of expenses incurred by the ECB in connection with the issue and handling of euro banknotes, or if the ECB's overall net profit for the year is less than its income from euro banknotes. For 2002, a single reduced interim distribution of 606 million was made on the second working day of 2003, reflecting the full amount of the banknote production costs incurred by the ECB in relation to the establishment of the Eurosystem strategic stock of banknotes. From 2003 onwards, interim distributions will normally be made after the end of each quarter.

[1] Decision of the European Central Bank of 5 December 2002 on the annual accounts of the ECB (ECB/2002/11), OJ L 58, 3 March 2003. This Decision entered into force on 1 January 2003 but also applies to the drawing-up of the annual balance sheet and profit and loss account of the ECB for the year ending 31 December 2002. The revisions to the accounting policies of previous years are not significant.

[2] Beschluss der Europäischen Zentralbank vom 21. November 2002 über die Verteilung der Einkünfte der Europäischen Zentralbank aus dem Euro-Banknotenumlauf an die Nationalen Zentralbanken der teilnehmenden Mitgliedstaaten (EZB/2002/9 ­ ABl. L 323 vom 28.11.2002).

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