ECONOMY

Credit Agricole takes 2 billion euro hit from Emporiki sale

French bank Credit Agricole said it would take a 2 billion-euro ($2.6 billion) quarterly loss from the sale of its ailing Greek lender Emporiki to rival Alpha Bank, the final chapter in its dismal investment in crisis-torn Greece.

Credit Agricole was the most exposed to Greece’s economy of France’s banks, which have spent the past year slashing Greek investments after a yield-hungry expansion spree during the boom times was torn apart by the euro zone debt crisis.

The final loss disclosed by Credit Agricole was broadly in line with what analysts had estimated after the French bank said on October 1 that it intended to pay Alpha 550 million euros to take the unprofitable subsidiary off its hands.

Credit Agricole shares have gained some 20 percent since the October 1 announcement. They fell 1.9 percent to 6.28 euros after the bank’s statement on Wednesday.

The bank, which is majority owned by a regional network of deposit-rich cooperative lenders, is seen as being able to take the hit without needing to raise capital at a still-testy time for the euro zone’s crisis-scarred banking sector.

But questions are likely to linger over Credit Agricole’s solvency as tougher rules known as Basel III come into force, highlighting the divide between the bank and better-capitalized domestic rivals BNP Paribas (BNPP.PA: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) and Societe Generale.

“There’s not much official detail in the statement on the impact of the Emporiki sale on capital targets,» a London-based analyst said. «The Credit Agricole parent group is well capitalized but we know that there is a certain gap between the group and its (listed) subsidiary.”

Credit Agricole reiterated on Wednesday that the deal would help it reach its end-2013 solvency targets, without giving fresh details. The bank’s parent group is aiming for a Basel III capital ratio of more than 10 percent at the end of next year.

Several analysts said that the deal’s terms otherwise looked positive, highlighting the freeing up of capital previously tied into Emporiki. [Reuters]