Foreigners up bank stakes

Foreign institutional investors are acquiring increasingly larger stakes in Greek banks. Alpha Bank’s placement of a significant part of its own shares and the government’s similar reduction of its share in National Bank (NBG) last year were mainly absorbed by foreign institutionals. The trend is now continuing through the Athens Stock Exchange and the strong interest in Greece’s two largest banks is viewed as the main factor behind the positive performance of their shares since last year. Foreign funds are currently estimated to control about 28 percent of Alpha Bank. Domestic institutionals control a further 16 percent. The foreign interest in NBG is estimated at 17.6 percent, while Greek funds hold about 20.5 percent. Foreign institutionals also control about 21 percent of Piraeus Bank, Greece’s fifth largest. This does not include a 4.2 percent interest held by Dutch group ING, which is viewed as a strategic investment. Deutsche Bank’s shedding last year of its 9.3 percent strategic investment it held in EFG Eurobank Ergasias nearly doubled the share of foreign institutional investors in the Greek bank to 16.4 percent, as they absorbed 80 percent of the placement. Domestic institutionals bought the remaining 20 percent. Foreign ownership of shares of Emporiki Bank, the fourth largest, is estimated at 10 percent, excluding the strategic 11 percent share held by France’s Credit Agricole.