New government will quickly replace state bank heads

After yesterday’s swearing-in of the new government, attention is now shifting to the changes in state-controlled enterprises and market regulatory and supervisory authorities. There are indications that the government wants to proceed quickly with sweeping changes, despite promises by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis that he would keep «competent» appointees of the previous administration and would not proceed with purges. There are plenty of names being circulated currently about possible replacements in state-controlled banks. Most candidates are from the private banking sector, such as Takis Arapoglou of Citibank, Vyron Ballis, Yiannis Pechlivanidis and Giorgos Alvertis (a son-in-law of senior New Democracy MP Miltiades Evert) from EFG Eurobank Ergasias, Giorgos Taniskidis from NovaBank, Haris Makkas and others. Still, very few people, if any, know who will get what. The final decision will only involve two people, Karamanlis and Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis. The earliest changes are expected to be in Agricultural Bank of Greece and the Postal Savings Bank, where the State holds 83.27 percent and 100 percent, respectively. The government will very soon demand the resignation of Agricultural’s Petros Lambrou – a veteran Socialist party operative – and Postal’s Andronike Boumi. Things are a little more complicated in other banks: In National Bank of Greece, where the governor’s post is vacant, following the death, last week, of Theodoros Karatzas, the State directly controls 14 percent. It also controls 25 percent in Emporiki Bank, through the state portfolio company (DEKA), the human resources organization (OAED) and the Organization of Agricultural Insurance Organization (OGA). In the same bank, France’s Credit Agricole controls 11.10 percent. Significant share stakes in the above banks are held by domestic mutual funds, investment firms, private banks and other associations, including pension funds. These are expected to support the government’s choice of appointee. Foreign institutionals, it should be noted, hold large chunks of shares in these banks. Most state-controlled banks will hold their annual general meetings in April and May and thus extraordinary meetings will not be necessary. National Bank, which urgently needs a replacement for Karatzas, is expected to hold its AGM in the week before Orthodox Easter (April 11).

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