Main Greek banks express interest in postal bank sale

Greece's top three banks and a smaller one expressed interest Friday in state-controlled Hellenic Postbank, which the government is looking to sell to meet its EU-IMF bailout obligations.

National Bank, Alpha Bank and Eurobank all confirmed a "conditional" and "initial" interest while smaller Attica Bank did not attach conditions.

National Bank said its main preoccupation was a planned merger with Eurobank but acknowledged that its "conditional" interest in the postal savings bank "has not ceased."

Alpha Bank said: "In regard to press reports, Alpha Bank confirms its initial interest in the Hellenic Postbank, without, at present, being able, as per the law and contractual provisions, to provide any further information."

Third-ranked Eurobank also noted that it was interested "under certain conditions".

Attica Bank seemed more committed than the other bidders, but declined to give details "due to a confidentiality agreement signed with the Bank of Greece."

A minor but well-capitalised lender, Hellenic Postbank took a serious blow last year from a restructuring of Greek sovereign debt.

Its shares were suspended in August after a run by shareholders following statements from the finance minister that the bank had become "unsustainable".

The Greek state has a 34-percent direct stake in the postal bank and controls another 10 percent through its majority ownership of the Greek postal service, which is also up for sale.

Financial media have reported that the government is considering splitting Hellenic Postbank in two parts so it can sell the healthy sector.

A similar solution was used for ailing state lender ATEBank, the healthy part of which was absorbed by Greece's fourth-largest lender, Piraeus Bank, at the end of July.

Under the terms of Greece's EU-IMF loan bailout, the government plans to raise 2.5 billion euros ($3.3 billion) through asset sales in 2013.

Other companies to be divested in coming months include gas distributor DEPA and gaming monopoly OPAP.

Greece was originally supposed to raise 50 billion euros from asset sales by 2015. This was later scaled down to 19 billion, and in October the government said it planned to raise just 9.5 billion euros by 2016.

In contrast, the European Commission expects 8.5 billion euros in sales by 2016, and 22 billion euros by 2020.

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