Hellenic Exchanges to be sold by July

The State will wind up the sale of its remaining 33 percent stake in Hellenic Exchanges, the owner of the Athens stock and futures bourses, within the next two months, a senior banking official said yesterday. The official, with one of the seven Greek banks which will buy the stake from the State, said a price for the transaction had yet to be decided but that a rough timetable had been agreed at a meeting between bankers, the bourse president and the Greek finance minister. «We expect that the stake will be transferred to the banks in June as originally agreed, and then in July we will place a stake with the existing shareholders,» said the official, who declined to be named. The group of banks said at the end of March that they will buy 14 percent of the company and then privately place the remaining 19 percent. The banks – National Bank, Alpha Bank, EFG Eurobank, Piraeus Bank, Commercial Bank, Agricultural Bank, and the unlisted Postal Savings Bank – will buy 10,144,381 shares in cash and will also underwrite a private placement of another block of 13,601,829 shares with existing institutional shareholders. The sale follows the State’s receipt this week of 326 million euros from the sale of 16.65 percent of refiner Hellenic Petroleum to the main shareholder in domestic rival Petrola, in a two-step process that will lead to a merger between the two companies. The deal was seen as the first major breakthrough in Greece’s privatization efforts, which are expected to bring in 3 billion euros this year, the proceeds of which will pay off public debt. Hellenic Exchanges, with a current market value of 240 million euros ($280.3 million), reported a first-quarter pretax loss of 8.6 million euros after a 970,000 euros profit a year earlier due to a drop in trading volumes. It had a pretax loss of 20.2 million euros in 2002. Greek banks already own about 26 percent of the company. Another 40 percent of Hellenic Exchanges is held by other institutional investors, including brokerages and pension funds, and retail investors.

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