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Key merger expected between Greek banks

30 august 2011, 13:43
A woman walks in front of a closed branch of Eurobank in Athens. ©Reuters
A woman walks in front of a closed branch of Eurobank in Athens. ©Reuters
A confidence-boosting merger between Greece's second and third-largest lenders, Eurobank and Alpha Bank, is to be announced on Monday, AFP reports, citing a banking source.

"The governing boards of the two banks will meet in the morning to approve the plan," the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

"A press conference will later be held to announce the details surrounding the exchange of stocks, the governing framework and the capital increase provisions," he added.

Greek media reports have said that the new entity, Alpha Eurobank, would be the Balkans' largest lender with assets of 150 billion euros ($218 billion), 80 billion in deposits and 2,000 branches in southeastern Europe.

Qatar's state investment authority, which holds around five percent in Alpha Bank, will reportedly participate in the new venture with a stake of around 16 percent.

"Qatar will hold an important share," the banking source confirmed.

Announcements are expected around 1100 GMT.

"If this deal goes ahead ... it will offer great confidence and security to the deposit holders of these banks, in addition to greater liquidity which our economy needs," analyst Haris Zamanis told Mega television.

The deal comes at a crucial moment for the Athens stock exchange which has fallen to a 15-year low amid uncertainty surrounding Greece's fragile economic recovery and a debt rollover plan that has seen little progress.

The stock value of Greece's main banks has also been hammered as a result.

Since the start of the year, top lender National Bank saw its share valuation plunge by 47.8 percent, Eurobank by 48 percent, Alpha Bank by 42.1 percent and Piraeus Bank by 68.9 percent, To Vima weekly said on Sunday.

Eurobank and Alpha are respectively the second and third Greek banks in terms of assets and capitalisation.

The move also comes ahead of an audit of Greek bank holdings by BlackRock, the world's largest money manager, at the request of the Bank of Greece, that is to begin next week.

Eurobank, which sold a Polish subsidiary and posted a net profit of 74 million euros in the first quarter of 2011 from 16 million euros a year earlier, had pledged in July to boost its capital after failing EU-wide bank stress tests.

Alpha Bank, which saw its first quarter net profit plunge 80 percent to 10.5 million euros, in February rejected a friendly merger offer from National Bank, the country's leading lender.

The deteriorating state of Greek public finances has cast a pall on the country's banking sector which has significant exposure to state debt, which has hit rock bottom after successive credit rating downgrades.

Greek banks have suffered as a result of debt-hit Greece's pariah status among creditors and have had to rely on the European Central Bank for fresh loans to keep them afloat.


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