Central banks are monetary authorities in their economies, enacting monetary policy by influencing money supply and interest rates. These banks were formed with the expressed purpose of protecting public interest, and were granted powers by national governments to do so. However, a handful of large central banks have some degree of public ownership. In some cases, shares held by non-government entities are traded on public stock exchanges.
Swiss National Bank
The Swiss National Bank, or Schweizerische Nationalbank (SWX: SNBN) is a joint-stock company with 100,000 registered shares, which are listed on the SIX Swiss Exchange. As of December 2015, the Swiss National Bank had 2319 shareholders, 72 of which were public entities such as cantons, municipalities and cantonal banks. Approximately 71% of the shares are voting shares, nearly three-quarters of which are held by public entities. As of December 2015, the largest shareholders were the Canton of Berne at 6.63% of shares, the Canton of Zurich at 5.2% of shares and Theo Siegert, an individual investor, at 6.6% of shares.
National Bank of Belgium
The Belgian National Bank is a public limited liability company that was established in 1850 with private capital. Its purpose is not to create profits for shareholders; instead, the bank is mandated to act in public interest, and it falls under the governance of the European Central Bank. The Belgian government owns 50% of the bank, with the remaining shares trading on the Brussels Stock Exchange. As of June 2, 2016, shares traded at $3,310 per share, a negative 10% year-to-date (YTD) return. There are only 400,000 shares of the bank, half of which are not traded, so there is thin volume that rarely surpasses 200 shares daily. The National Bank of Belgium has a June 2016 market cap of $1.35 billion and a gross dividend yield of 4.53%.
Reserve Bank of South Africa
The Reserve Bank of South Africa was founded in 1921 as a privately owned entity, and it has approximately 650 shareholders in 2016. Shares are traded over the counter on an exchange coordinated within the bank. There are 2 million shares that trade freely, though individual ownership is capped at 10,000. Annual dividends are capped at 10 cents per share, and surplus profits are distributed to the government of South Africa. This allows the bank to act in the interest of the public rather than maximizing profits for owners. As of June 2016, shares are trading at approximately 13 cents. Volume is very thin, often going numerous days without any trades occurring.
Bank of Japan
The Bank of Japan was founded in 1882, though its organizational laws have been altered several times. The Japanese government owns 55% of the bank, with private investors holding the balance of shares. Private holders are not granted the right to participate in management, and distributions in the event of liquidation are limited to the sum of paid-up capital. Dividends are limited to 5% of paid-up capital, which is 45 million yen, just over $420,000 as of June 2016. Shares are traded over the counter on the JASDAQ Securities Exchange. The central bank's YTD return was negative 11.2% as of June 3, 2016, bringing the market cap to approximately $350 million. Allowable dividend outlays are negligible, capped around $20,000 in aggregate to private holders. Daily volume is generally below 1,000 shares.
Bank of Greece
The Bank of Greece was founded in 1927, when it issued 80,000 shares. Ownership interest of the state is capped at 35%, leaving a significant amount of equity to the public. Shareholders hold voting rights and are entitled to dividend distributions, but the chief officer of the bank is appointed by the Greek government. Bank of Greece shares are listed on the Athens Stock Exchange, where its market cap was above $235 million as of June 2016. Bank of Greece shares were slightly more liquid than some of their central bank counterparts, with daily volume of 4,200 shares on 50 transactions.