ECONOMY

Piraeus stake sale ‘a vote of confidence’

The transfer of the 4.64 percent stake that Portuguese group BCP held in the Piraeus Group to foreign investors was completed successfully on Wednesday, confirming the strong interest in the local banking sector.

The sale was twice oversubscribed within just a few hours and some 80 investors, mostly from the US and Europe, acquired all the Piraeus Bank shares and warrants that BCP held. Among the buyers are institutional portfolios from Norway and others such as TT International, Third Point, Baupost and York Capital, as well as several hedge funds.

The shares were transferred before the start of trading on the Athens Exchange yesterday at a price of 1.50 euros each while warrants were sold at 0.60 euros apiece, which entails an average discount of 16.7 percent. BCP collected 494 million euros from the sale of 235 million shares and as many warrants, having invested 400 million euros a few months ago to acquire them. When exercised, the warrants transferred will amount to a 20.1 percent stake in Piraeus Bank.

Senior Piraeus officials told Kathimerini that they were very satisfied with the success of the transaction, stressing that the discount was relatively small when considering the fact that the price of the Piraeus stock had soared in recent weeks. They added that this constituted a major investment move as the shares transferred amount to one-third of the company’s free float. “It constitutes a significant step toward strengthening [Piraeus’s] presence in the capital markets,” read a group statement.

Piraeus board sources added that the successful sale of the shares and the warrants to foreign investors is a vote of confidence not just in the Piraeus Group but also in the prospects of the Greek economy.

The next major step for Piraeus is the share capital increase of its subsidiary, Geniki Bank, with an aim for the participation of a strategic investor. The group aims to turn Geniki into a specialized corporation for the restructuring of companies.