Mega-bank merger still pos­si­ble

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

A ma­jor merger in Greece’s bank­ing sec­tor re­mains pos­si­ble, ac­cord­ing to the coun­try’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive in the In­ter­na­tional Mone­tary Fund, Thanos Cat­sam­bas.

In a state­ment is­sued yes­ter­day, Cat­sam­bas noted the progress recorded in the bank­ing sys­tem’s re­cap­i­tal­iza­tion process and stressed that Greek au­thor­i­ties have un­der­taken to de­velop an in­te­grated strat­egy for the re­struc­tur­ing of the credit sec­tor af­ter the re­cap­i­tal­iza­tion, which should be com­pleted by July 15.

Cat­sam­bas stated that, among other things, Athens’s strat­egy will ex­am­ine the pos­si­bil­ity of fur­ther con­cen­tra­tion among the four sys­temic banks (National, Pi­raeus, Alpha and Eurobank). Greece will also ex­am­ine the timetable for the sale to the pri­vate sec­tor of the shares that are be­ing taken by the Hel­lenic Fi­nan­cial Sta­bil­ity Fund (HFSF) dur­ing the banks’ share cap­i­tal in­creases.

The state­ment fur­ther noted the de­ci­sion for the Greek branches of the three main Cypriot banks (Bank of Cyprus, Cyprus Pop­u­lar Bank and Hel­lenic Bank) to be sold to a Greek lender. The three net­works of the Cypriot banks were ac­quired by Pi­raeus Bank.

Cat­sam­bas added in his state­ment that it is a main pri­or­ity for the govern­ment to con­tain non­per­form­ing loans, and said the re­turn of de­posits to the lo­cal credit sys­tem was a pos­i­tive de­vel­op­ment.

Se­nior do­mes­tic bank of­fi­cials are ex­press­ing con­cern about the op­tion of a merger be­tween any of the sys­temic banks, un­der­scor­ing the huge size a merged group would have. They point to the fact that one of the main rea­sons cited by the coun­try’s cred­i­tors in re­vers­ing the merger of National with Eurobank ear­lier this year was the size of the group that would have been cre­ated and the likely dif­fi­cul­ties it would have faced in sell­ing its shares to the pri­vate sec­tor.

Greece’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive at the In­ter­na­tional Mone­tary Fund.

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