ECONOMY

Emporiki lets go of subsidiaries

The governing board of Emporiki Bank decided on Thursday to transfer all its subsidiaries in the Balkans to its parent group, France?s Credit Agricole. The decision fueled rumors of a departure by the French group from Greece and preparation for the worst.

It came one day after a Wall Street Journal report according to which Credit Agricole is examining the prospect of abandoning Emporiki — a previously state-owned bank — if Greece drops out of the eurozone.

Emporiki sources said that the transfer of its subsidiaries in no way constitutes a step toward preparing for the worst, and stressed that the move had been planned years ago. They added that the subsidiary transfer will improve Emporiki?s liquidity as the support of the subsidiaries will be passed on to the parent group.

The Emporiki board decided to transfer all of the shares it has in Emporiki Bank Romania, Emporiki Bank Bulgaria and Emporiki Bank Albania. The decision is pending the approval of those countries? central banks.

The bank announced on Thursday that this was an internal transfer, in the context of the group, that constitutes the final step in a process that started in 2009 aimed at strengthening relations between Credit Agricole and the Emporiki Bank subsidiaries in the Balkans, in line with the French group?s international business growth model.

?As a result of their progressive incorporation in the Credit Agricole Group during the last three years, the subsidiaries of Emporiki Bank have adjusted the procedures of risk management and regulatory compliance, their administrative organization and their IT systems to the standards of the group. They now also have a clear reference to Credit Agricole Group in their corporate identity. This transfer will also maximize capital management in these subsidiary banks,? the statement read.

The Wall Street Journal report suggested that a source close to the Credit Agricole administration had said that if Greece were to leave the eurozone, the French bank would have no obligation to remain in Greece.