ECONOMY

Alpha Bank denies it’s close to Emporiki deal [UPDATE]

A senior official at Greece’s Alpha Bank denied a Greek newspaper report on Tuesday that the lender is close to a deal to buy struggling rival Emporiki Bank, which France’s Credit Agricole has been trying to sell.

Financial daily Imerisia, citing sources, said a deal would be signed in mid-September after the terms of a planned Greek bank recapitalisation are finalised and that a Qatari fund with a stake in Alpha would offer «capital support» for the deal.

“We deny the report saying we are close to a deal to buy Emporiki,» the Alpha bank official said.

A Credit Agricole spokeswoman was not immediately available to comment.

In June, Alpha denied a similar news report saying it was in intensive talks to acquire Emporiki assets.

Credit Agricole has been scrambling to scale back its 4.6 billion euro exposure to Emporiki after concern that a Greek exit from the euro zone would prompt massive writedowns and force a capital increase.

Emporiki has previously confirmed it is in «preliminary discussions» with Greek lenders and regulatory authorities.

Greece’s biggest lender, National Bank, has previously confirmed it is in talks with the French bank over Emporiki, while banking sources have said both Alpha and No.2 Greek lender EFG Eurobank have also shown interest.

The Imerisia report comes days after Greece’s fourth-largest bank Piraeus agreed to take over the healthy assets of troubled state lender ATEbank.

Greece’s banking sector, battered by the country’s sovereign debt crisis that has triggered deposit outflows and left it reliant on the central bank for liquidity, has been under pressure to consolidate to weather the crisis.

[Reuters]