ECONOMY

Alpha refutes Emporiki asset talks

Alpha Bank rushed on Wednesday to quell speculation regarding a possible purchase of assets belonging to rival Emporiki Bank.

Reports had earlier suggested that Emporiki?s administration was locked in negotiations with Alpha regarding the sale of part of its loan portfolio or of some of its activities, as parent company Credit Agricole is reported to be examining all alternatives for the utilization of Emporiki, which has become a burden for the French group due to fiscal developments in Greece. In this context, Credit Agricole is said to be discussing all possibilities, including mergers, with the administrations of major local banking groups.

However, Alpha issued a statement on Wednesday saying that ?it is not in negotiations for the acquisition of a portfolio or of the commercial activity branches of any other credit institution.? Emporiki made no comment on the reports.

Emporiki Bank has been a major focus of attention in recent weeks as sources insist that Credit Agricole is seeking ways to disengage from its investment in Greece.

Rumors grew stronger a few days ago following Emporiki?s decision to transfer all of its Balkan subsidiaries to the French parent company, i.e. its stakes in Emporiki Bank Romania, Emporiki Bank Bulgaria and Emporiki Bank Albania. The decision became known a few days after a Wall Street Journal report that had revealed Credit Agricole?s intention to leave Greece should the country drop out of the eurozone.

Emporiki officials rejected the link between the report and the board?s decision, saying the latter had been made several months earlier.

A few days ago Alain Strub, Emporiki?s CEO and a member of the Credit Agricole Executive Committee, told the Athens News Agency in an interview that ?in the general meeting of shareholders of Credit Agricole the group?s administration affirmed once again that a Greek exit from the euro is not the scenario that we prefer. As a result we also do not prefer the scenario of a Credit Agricole exit from Emporiki.?

He added that the French group had supported Emporiki with several billion euros in share capital increases.