New banking pillars turn attention to small market players

After the creation of three main banking pillars in the local credit system and in anticipation of their recapitalization, the lenders? managements are now examining their next moves in the context of the sector?s restructuring.

Already the merger projects that National has with Eurobank, Alpha with Emporiki and Piraeus with ATEbank and Geniki are quite big and normally their managements would have been in no mood to get involved in opening new fronts. However, bank officials have told Kathimerini that these lenders, on which the local system relies, will also have to be involved in the next restructuring moves, too.

The fate of Hellenic Postbank (TT) is already known, as, according to the agreement that Athens has reached with its creditors, the state-owned lender will have to split into a ?good? and ?bad? part, just like ATEbank, with the healthy side heading for privatization. Crucially, everything will have to be completed by the end of November, as if there is no change to the bank?s status its shareholder will lose control. Therefore National and Eurobank, which between them control 12 percent of TT, will lose the theoretical advantage they hold. It is certain that TT will attract the interest of Alpha and Piraeus too, given its sizable deposits.

There is also significant interest in Millennium Bank provided that its Portuguese owners recapitalize it according to the directions of the Bank of Greece.

Both TT, with 150 branches, and Millennium, with 100, are significant powers in the local credit system. But what will become of the smaller players?

The draft memorandum the government has agreed to with its creditors has set an April 2013 deadline for all nonsystemic banks to collect the funds required to restore their capital base, be that from their existing shareholders or from new ones. If they fail to do so, they will come under the control of the Hellenic Financial Stability Fund (HFSF) and be split into good and bad parts. Their good parts will be put up for sale to one of the three systemic banks or any other lenders that is successfully recapitalized.

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