EFG Eurobank Ergasias,Greece’s third largest bank by assets, will distribute 78 percent of last year’s net profit to shareholders. The board proposed, and the shareholders’ approved in yesterday’s annual general meeting, a dividend of 0.47 euros per share, which means that 78 percent of last year’s net profit of 184 million euros will go back to shareholders. EFG Eurobank Chief Executive Nikos Nanopoulos announced that first-quarter profit after minorities dropped 4 percent, to 65 million euros. The drop was smaller than forecast by experts. «The positive development in profits in the first quarter allows us to have better expectations for the whole of 2003,» Nanopoulos told shareholders. In 2002, net profit after minorities had dropped 10 percent. Nanopoulos also referred to the recent difficulties experienced by a number of Greek companies. «The (Greek) banking system faces a serious challenge because a thankfully small number of enterprises, through excessively optimistic forecasts or mistaken moves, made investments that have landed them in difficulty… Correcting the situation makes it imperative for the businessmen themselves to take restructuring initiatives; cooperation and solidarity among banks, and between the banks and state authorities, will also be necessary in carrying out this restructuring,» Nanopoulos said.