Government plans to sell more of NBG to pension funds

The government is in talks with domestic pension funds to sell them up to 2.5 percent in the country’s biggest bank, National Bank, Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis said yesterday. «We plan to cut our 7.5 percent holding in National Bank to around 5 percent,» Christodoulakis told reporters at a joint briefing with National’s Chief Executive Theodoros Karatzas. «We are in talks to place (a stake) with pension funds,» he added, without giving any details on the timing. The stake would be worth 116 million euros ($138.3 million) at yesterday’s closing price for the shares. Christodoulakis specified that the shares would be sold directly to the funds in line with a lock-up clause set during a previous placement in October, when the State offered 11 percent of National shares, raising some 490 million euros. The clause specified that neither investors nor the State could make any further offerings in the open market for six months thereafter. An offer directly to the pension funds would not be contrary to the clause. «The placement is not seen as having any real impact, as the offering is to pension funds and not directly on the market,» said Sofia Skourti, analyst at Marfin Hellenic Securities. National shares closed 2.06 percent down at 18.08 euros, underperforming the broad market, down 1.15 percent. An analyst who declined to be named said the offering was clearly a move by the government to get cash, adding there would be no change in the bank’s fundamentals or in its free float since the October placement. Greek institutional investors currently hold a fifth of the shares, with foreign investors holding 18 percent and pension funds around 17 percent. The government has stepped up sales of state assets this year, hoping to reach its target of 3 billion euros in revenues. (Reuters)