EU banks close 5,500 branches in 2012

Europe plunged into financial crisis in early 2008.

The European Union has closed some 5,500 bank branches across the continental bloc last year, leaving fewer outlets than it had before the financial crisis in 2008, a report shows.

Banks across the EU cut 2.5 percent of their total branches in 2012, leaving the financial industry with 20,000 fewer offices than it had before the start of the financial crisis, according to data recently analyzed by Reuters from European Central Bank statistics.

Greece witnessed one of the biggest contractions in 2012, dropping 5.7 percent of its outlets as bank mergers led to 219 closures. Experts predict the trend will continue in 2013 with Piraeus Bank closing some of its 312 branches.

Spainâ„¢s bank network lost approximately 4.9 percent, or 1,963, of its branches in 2012.

Irelandâ„¢s banking sector contracted by 3.3 percent and is expected to decline again in 2013, while Italy’s network shrunk by 3.1 percent at the end of the year.

The massive shutdowns come after 7,200 branch closures across the EU in 2011, bringing the total number of closures to 8 percent from 2009 to 2012.

Experts said banks across Europe closed branches in a bid to trim operating costs and improve earnings.

Europe plunged into financial crisis in early 2008. The worsening debt crisis has forced the EU governments to adopt harsh austerity measures and tough economic reforms, which have triggered incidents of social unrest and massive protests in many European countries.

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Republished from: Press TV