Piraeus Bank confirms interest in ATEbank

Greece’s Piraeus Bank on Monday confirmed it was interested in buying struggling state-controlled ATEbank, as the country’s battered banking sector looks to consolidate to weather a debilitating debt crisis.

“Piraeus Bank confirms its interest in ATEbank,» Piraeus said in a statement, adding it would not disclose further details due to a confidentiality agreement.

Greek media have reported that ATEbank, an agricultural lender founded in 1929, could be split into two and its healthy assets sold off to suitors like National Bank and Eurobank, who have been eyeing its best assets.

European Union sources have previously said that the European Commission had been pushing Greece to wind down certain banks, possibly including ATEbank.

Greece’s four biggest banks this year received 18 billion euros in capital under its EU/IMF bailout after the banks suffered heavy losses from a landmark sovereign debt swap. [Reuters]