ECONOMY

Decision on sale of National Bank stake by October

The government will probably decide on the possible sale of a tranche of National Bank shares to domestic and foreign institutional investors in October, a government source said yesterday. A sale could bring in more than 450 million euros ($514.8 million). «No decision has been made. Any decision on selling a stake in National Bank will be taken in October,» the source said. The State controls via direct and indirect holdings some 40 percent in the country’s largest bank, 19 percent of which is held by the state asset holding company DEKA. «The prevailing scenario which is being examined is to sell a stake to institutional investors via book building. The size of the offering means we need bids from foreign institutional investors,» the source said, adding that the sale will only go ahead when market conditions are right. The source did not specify the size of the offering considered by the government. Press reports over the weekend said the government is considering the sale of a stake of more than 10 percent of National Bank and 9 percent of Commercial Bank. At current market prices, a 10 percent stake in National would bring in more than 450 million euros. The government aims to raise 3 billion euros this year in state assets sales, and earlier this month the offer of a quarter of its soccer pools and lottery group OPAP, the biggest deal so far this year, fetched more than 700 million euros. In the past the government has sought to sell stakes in listed state-controlled companies via a quick procedure squeezed into a few weeks to avoid prolonged speculation about the offer weighing on the market. The source said any decision regarding National Bank will be made in cooperation with the group’s management. The government also aims to offload its Commercial Bank holding before the end of the year, the source said. «We need to ask Credit Agricole first if it wants to boost its holdings in Commercial Bank,» the source said. The French bank group has a stake close to 10 percent stake in Commercial Bank and has right of first refusal.