ECONOMY

Talks over Commercial stake

The sale of a further 9.6 percent stake in Commercial Bank (Emporiki) is entering its most crucial phase with potential buyers Credit Agricole pressing for a solution to the issue of the employees’ pension fund. The fund is partly paid for by the bank and Credit Agricole officials are saying they do not want to see Commercial saddled with increased liabilities because of any shortfalls in the fund. Commercial’s management believe that both the fund issue and the sale could be concluded in two months’ time. At this point, however, the bank’s chairman, Yiannis Stournaras, has tough negotiations ahead of him. He is assisted by the bank’s accountants, KPMG, and JP Morgan, in an advisory role. Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis has said that the government is not willing, at present, to open the issue of bank employees’ social security and pension funds, but he assured Credit Agricole that if they agree with Commercial on a solution he would not oppose it. The government has been thinking of amalgamating all employees’ funds or even merging them with other professionals’ pension funds. This latter proposal, especially, is opposed by the bank employees’ union. In recent days, in meetings both in Athens and Dubai, where Christodoulakis attended the annual meeting of the World Bank and the IMF, Credit Agricole officials told Christodoulakis that they are interested not only in acquiring the 9.6 percent stake but also shares held by other state-controlled bodies. They also want the bank’s management.