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CAPITAL MARKETS

Unlocking southeastern Europe’s lost billions

Shares worth up to €8 billion left in abandoned accounts; potential game-changer for local capital markets, says EBRD.

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Billions of euros’ worth of shares could be lying unclaimed in dormant accounts in Romania and the Balkans, according to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).

The shares are a legacy of mass privatizations undertaken by post-communist governments across the region, mainly in the 1990s. They were left unclaimed after a series of corporate scandals eroded the value of investments and damaged public faith in capital markets.

Jim Turnbull, a senior capital markets adviser at the EBRD, says putting the shares back into circulation would be a “game-changer” for local stock markets.

“The biggest issue equity markets in the region face is lack of liquidity,” he says. “This is the single most constructive thing we could do to change that.”

An EBRD-funded survey of central depositories in Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia suggests the total value of assets in dormant accounts – defined as ones that have been inactive for more than five years – could be as high as €8 billion.