Alpha Bank to securitise 1 billion euros of shipping loans, say sources

By George Georgiopoulos & Jonathan Saul

Greece's Alpha Bank plans to securitise about 1.0 billion euros ($1.36 billion) of shipping loans this summer in one of the first European asset-backed deals in this industry for years, a banker with Alpha Bank and another finance industry source said on Friday.

Europe's asset-backed market has not recovered from financial crisis, but the European Central Bank and the Bank of England have both said they want to revive it to provide money for credit-starved businesses and help to revitalize the region's economy.

Sources told Reuters that Alpha Bank expects to raise about 500 euros in the transaction, which basically bundles together a series of individual shipping loans.

One source familiar with the deal said the transaction would be mainly arranged by U.S. bank Citi (C.N). Citi declined to comment.

"We are working on a plan to securitise about 1 billion euros worth of shipping portfolio loans, aiming to conclude the deal in the summer," the senior Alpha banker said separately, declining to be named.

"The securitization will get us funding of about 500 million euros. The bonds will have a five-year maturity and will be privately placed," the banker added.

The Alpha banker said the money raised would help the bank funnel the liquidity into new loans and support the Greek economy’s recovery.

The deal also represents part of efforts by industry players to seek other ways to raise money to plug a multi-billion dollar funding gap caused by several European banks exiting the shipping sector or scaling back exposure in response to tougher regulations after the financial crisis.

"What this deal represents is a way for the bank to shift the loans and an alternative source of capital for the ship owners," an industry source said. [Reuters]