Na­tional Bank, HFSF and Pi­raeus still lack­ing key de­ci­sion-mak­ers

Kathimerini English - - Focus - BY YIAN­NIS PAPADOYIANNIS

Na­tional Bank of Greece, the coun­try’s old­est, re­mains with­out a pres­i­dent, an is­sue that will be re­vis­ited in the com­ing days. At the same time, its main share­holder, bank bailout fund HFSF, is also ef­fec­tively head­less.

On Thurs­day evening, dur­ing an NBG gov­ern­ing board meet­ing aimed at rat­i­fy­ing the se­lec­tion of Panayi­o­tis Tho­mopou­los as the lender’s new pres­i­dent, the Hel­lenic Fi­nan­cial Sta­bil­ity Fund asked that the meet­ing be ad­journed for three days.

The HFSF rep­re­sen­ta­tives stressed that all nec­es­sary mea­sures would be taken to safe­guard the fund’s rights – which sounded like a threat to con­vene an ex­tra­or­di­nary gen­eral meet­ing to vote against the new pres­i­dent, who is not the HFSF’s choice.

The re­quest for an ad­journ­ment fol­lowed the board’s de­ci­sion to choose some­one other than the HFSF’s rec­om­men­da­tion for NBG pres­i­dent. The HFSF con­trols over 40 per­cent of Na­tional’s shares. In Thurs­day morn­ing’s ses­sion the fund pro­posed Dim­itris Tsit­sir­a­gos for pres­i­dent, but the NBG board mem­bers chose Tho­mopou­los by a big ma­jor­ity (12 against two).

De­spite the HFSF’s veiled threat of a gen­eral meet­ing in the af­ter­noon, the board went ahead with an evening ses­sion for the rat­i­fica- tion of its new com­po­si­tion and Tho­mopou­los as its pres­i­dent. Still, the HFSF op­po­si­tion re­mained strong, ten­sions mounted and the fund forced the ad­journ­ment of the ses­sion.

Be­sides the ques­tions that arise as a re­sult of this clash be­tween the NBG board and the HFSF, it also seems strange that there was no prior com­mu­ni­ca­tion to find a so­lu­tion with­out all the noise, but that is likely ex­plained by the ad­min­is­tra­tive gap within the HFSF. Last sum­mer both CEO Aris Xeno­fos and his deputy Gior­gos Kout­sos were forced to re­sign even though no one had been cho­sen to re­place them. The only sta­ble fac­tor in the fund is chair­man Gior­gos Miche­lis, but he has no ex­ec­u­tive au­thor­ity.

There­fore, along with that at Na- tional, there is also a se­ri­ous man­age­ment cri­sis at the HFSF, given that the new CEO, Vassilis Kat­siki­o­tis – an­nounced last week by the gov­ern­ment – has not taken over the run­ning of the fund. Ac­cord­ing to sources, this is be­cause the gov­ern­ment and the coun­try’s cred­i­tors (which hold the purse strings at the HFSF) have gone back on the agree­ment reached re­gard­ing his salary and the length of his man­date, which ac­cord­ing to the Gov­ern­ment Gazette ex­pires on June 30 (i.e. after just seven months).

At the same time Pi­raeus Bank, Greece’s big­gest in terms of as­sets, also re­mains with­out a CEO, as the process to that end has been re­peat­edly post­poned since Jan­uary, adding to the prob­lem­atic pic­ture in the credit sec­tor.

At Na­tional Bank’s board ses­sion on Thurs­day morn­ing the HFSF pro­posed Dim­itris Tsit­sir­a­gos for pres­i­dent, but the board mem­bers in­stead chose Panayi­o­tis Tho­mopou­los by a big ma­jor­ity (12 against two).

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