Piraeus Bank posts 9-month loss, hit by bad provisions

Piraeus Bank posted a nine-month loss after a jump in bad debt provisions and Greece’s fourth-largest lender said it still planned to sell its Egyptian operations even though Standard Chartered has pulled out of talks on a deal.

The bank will begin discussions with other potential buyers for its Piraeus Bank Egypt following Standard Chartered’s decision not to proceed due to a worsening economic climate. Piraeus has already received indications of interest from other buyers.

“We intend to initiate discussions (with potential buyers) via a competitive process,» Managing Director Alex Manos told analysts in a conference call following the results announcement.

Piraeus reported a nine-month loss of 287 million euros ($382 million), excluding the impact from a planned writedown on Greek government bonds.

Loan-loss provisions in the nine-month period jumped 126 percent year-on-year to 909 million euros as non-performing loans increased in the third quarter, meaning the ratio of loans in arrears more than 90 days hit 11.7 percent at end-September from 9.5 percent in June.

Greek banks are expected to have to recapitalise after writedowns resulting from a bond swap agreed in October, which calls for a 50 percent nominal writedown on Greek government debt.

“Piraeus Bank will do everything in its power to minimise the official support it will receive,» Manos told analysts.

Terms of the bond swap, known as private sector involvement (PSI+), have yet to be finalised.

Piraeus Bank said the final impact of the PSI+ plan would be calculated and reflected in its annual results if the specific terms — coupon rate, maturity, guarantees, face value reduction — are finalised before the publication date of its financial statements.

PSI+ replaces an earlier deal agreed in July, which called for a smaller 21 percent net present value loss on the bonds.

Including the impact from the smaller, initial haircut agreed in July, estimated at 865 million euros, Piraeus said its nine-month net loss would be 1.153 billion euros.

Greek banks are trying to cope with rising credit impairments and a shrinking deposit base as the austerity-hit country struggles through its fourth straight year of economic contraction, seen topping 5.5 percent this year. They are also heavily reliant on central bank funding.

Piraeus had borrowed a total of 21 billion euros from the European Central Bank and the Greek central bank by end September to cope with liquidity needs, management told analysts in a conference call following the results announcement.

“Piraeus had 21 billion euros of central bank funding at end September, with two-thirds from the ECB and the rest being ELA (emergency liquidity assistance from the Bank of Greece),» group treasurer Tom Arvanitis said.

Piraeus said its net interest income rose 4 percent year-on-year to 916 million euros with its cost-to-income ratio improving to 48 from 56 percent in the same period a year earlier.


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