New Eurobank CEO, board to head reprivatization drive

Greece’s bank rescue fund picked a former Credit Suisse investment banker to run Eurobank on Thursday, aiming to reprivatize the country’s fourth-largest lender and recoup funds it injected to plug its capital hole.

Eurobank was the only one of Greece’s four major lenders to fall under the full control of the Hellenic Financial Stability Fund (HFSF), a rescue vehicle financed from Greece’s EU/IMF bailout package, after it was recapitalized.

At the annual shareholders meeting, HFSF named Christos Megalou to take over from Nick Nanopoulos as chief executive and businessman George David, a major shareholder in bottler Coca-Cola (CCHBC), as the new board chairman for a three-year term.

Megalou has been involved in investment banking deals in the past, including the listing of Greek telecoms OTE on the New York Stock Exchange and advising National Bank on its acquisition of Finansbank in Turkey.

The HFSF rescue fund also picked former National Bank (NBG) CEO Takis Arapoglou, who spearheaded NBG’s foray into Turkey, as a non-executive board member.

In an emotional farewell, a tearful Nanopoulos, who headed Eurobank for 22 years, told the assembly the bank found it hard to raise a required 10 percent of its common equity issue from the market after authorities suspended its merger with NBG.

“The new management will implement a new five-year business plan. If authorities decide against the merger with NBG, the plan will seek to attract private investors,” Nanopoulos said adding that there was interest in a future capital boost.

In early April Greece’s creditors blocked Eurobank’s planned merger with larger rival NBG, effectively depriving it of shareholder support.

The plan was well advanced, with National having already taken an 85 percent share in Eurobank, when Greece, the EU and the IMF called it off on concerns that the joint entity would become too big.

Eurobank opted to issue new shares to plug a 5.84 billion euro capital hole exclusively to the HFSF. The fund now owns more than 98 percent of its outstanding shares.

Eurobank will continue to operate as one of the four pillars of the country’s banking system under the new management, remaining administratively independent, the HFSF’s CEO Anastasia Sakellariou told the assembly.

“The goal is to return the bank to the private sector as soon as possible,” she said. [Reuters]