General Bank to sell major stake with management

The government yesterday decided to offer a substantial stake in General Bank and its management to a Greek or foreign buyer, in an effort to meet the urgent need to boost the bank’s capital base. Sources said the decision concerns the 35.5 percent interest held in the bank by the Army Providence Fund, which is controlled by the Defense Ministry. The significance which the government attributes to the sale was highlighted by the fact that the relevant meeting under the prime minister was attended by the ministers of economy and finance, Nikos Christodoulakis, and defense, Yiannos Papantoniou, and Bank of Greece governor Nikos Garganas. Papantoniou said he hoped the tender will not be completed «too late.» It has not transpired whether any potential buyers have expressed interest so far, but the government said it is awaiting the recommendations of a foreign firm of consultants. General Bank is estimated to require at least 50 million euros to fund its expansion initially and overcome a sizable problem of bad debts. An effort to sell a smaller stake without the management last year attracted no offers. An alternative option is to float more shares on the stock market.

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