n South African Journal of Economic and Management Sciences - Private shareholding : an analysis of an eclectic group of central banks

Volume 19, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1015-8812
  • E-ISSN: 2222-3436



Although the title seems to be a contradictio in terminis, this paper identifies a small, eclectic number of central banks with private shareholders about which little has been published. It is shown that only the central banks of Belgium, Greece, Italy, Japan, South Africa, Switzerland, Turkey and the United States (US) Federal Reserve Banks allow shareholding other than by the government of the respective countries, although not in all instances by the general public. This paper considers private shareholding in this eclectic group of central banks, despite the trend of nationalising central banks that commenced in 1935. Private shareholding is defined as shareholding in a central bank by any party other than the respective government or governments (e.g. the European Central Bank) where the central bank is located. Large differences in the classes of shareholders of these eclectic central banks and differences in their approaches to dividend payments are highlighted in the paper. The conclusions reached are, firstly, that investment only in the shares of the central banks of Belgium and Greece (albeit only for residents in the latter instance) can be regarded as growth investments. Secondly, shareholding in the Italian central bank has been used to recapitalise ailing commercial banks. Thirdly, shareholders play no role in the formulation and implementation of monetary policy. Lastly, the shareholding structure of these banks contributes to improved governance in the case of the central banks of Belgium, Greece, Italy, South Africa, Switzerland and Turkey, but no evidence can be found that central banks with shareholders in any way outperform central banks without shareholders.

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