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REUTERS NEWS, 29/09/2004

Spain to test computerised reporting of EU bank results

By Elisabeth O'Leary

MADRID, Sept 29 (Reuters) - The Bank of Spain will launch a pilot programme next year aimed at curing the problems plaguing Europe's complex and sometimes contradictory regulatory regimes, officials said on Wednesday.

The Spanish central bank aims to test a special computer language that would allow banks across the 25-nation European Union to use one reporting platform to fulfil most financial reporting requirements by banking regulators.

Europe is driving to integrate financial markets by 2005 as part of its Financial Services Action Plan and a common reporting method would be a big step towards that aim. The technology could be used by all European companies reporting their results.

The move could help European banks cut costs and even facilitate cross-border mergers by bridging huge gaps in the way regulators set reporting demands on their banks.

The EU has made lowering hurdles to cross-border banking mergers one of its top priorities this year. Bankers and analysts say the myriad of reporting demands required by regulators are a burden to cross-border banking.

Spain plans to promote eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL), which it believes will help towards convergence and transparency in financial markets.

"Europe has a single financial market which has a single regulator but in which coexist different national supervisors and different practices," said Jose Maria Roldan, Europe's top bank watchdog as head of the Committee of European Banking Supervisors. "If we could use (XBRL) as an international standard for a financial entity which operates in several European countries, reporting to different authorities becomes much easier," Roldan said.

Top European banking regulators gathered last week at a global conference in Madrid said they hoped that the XBRL project could reduce the slow and politically painstaking need to harmonize banking laws across the 25-nation EU.


Instead of treating financial information as a block of text - as in a standard Internet page or a printed document - XBRL provides a computer-readable specific identity tag for each item of data. For example, net profit or earnings per share have unique tags.

It can show how items on a profit and loss account are related to one another, how they are calculated or how they are grouped for organisational purposes.

Roldan said XBRL was more time-and cost-efficient because instead of having several methods of data presentation, there is one which fits all the requirements of an international entity.

"We are proposing it as something which will reduce costs both for the Bank of Spain as well as for the banks," said Roldan, who is also the chairman of the Spanish XBRL association and head of regulation at the Bank of Spain.

"But it's probably premature to talk about when it might become obligatory," he added.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has said recently that it would consider making it compulsory for companies to use XBRL, thereby helping SEC staff and investors to quickly check and analyse financial data.


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