An extension granted by Brussels to National Bank of Greece for the sale of Ethniki Insurance has given it some leeway to explore its options after announcing the termination of talks with Chinese suitor Gongbao on Wednesday.
NBG did not rule out any options in its announcement, saying it is committed to exploring alternative solutions to meeting the obligations outlined in its restructuring plan.
One NBG official told Reuters that an agreement has been made with the European Union’s Directorate-General for Competition for “an ample time extension” for Ethniki’s sale, beyond December 2018, taking it into 2019. Among the options on the table are a public offering of Ethniki shares or private placement (though market turbulence makes this unlikely), a new tender or even the cancellation of the insurer’s sale.
Sources told Kathimerini that the talks fell through after five months because Gongbao is not an insurance firm and the sale would not ensure synergies through bancassurance, as stipulated in the tender. NBG was also concerned that Gongbao would be unable to cover the 676-million-euro bid it made for the Ethniki stake.
Gongbao sources countered that no preliminary agreement had been reached, a necessary condition for a letter of guarantee.