New National Bank chief outlines plan for further growth

National Bank of Greece will not only maintain its pre-eminence in the domestic market, but will expand its market share, new governor Takis Arapoglou told reporters yesterday. Arapoglou, elected earlier this month to succeed Theodoros Karatzas, who died early in March, presented a new organization chart for the bank, saying that its main purpose was to bring together the businesses that are expected to generate the most revenue while reducing operational costs. Arapoglou has decided to appoint just one deputy governor, Yiannis Pechlivanidis, in the place of the three Karatzas had. The bank’s business plan provides for a further strengthening of its position in southeast Europe, with more branches in Balkan countries. Arapoglou did not exclude expansion in new markets, such as Russia’s and Ukraine’s. The business plan is a continuation of the previous management’s efforts. Arapoglou reviewed his predecessor’s record at length, praising most of it. He placed special emphasis on how the bank got rid of stakes in some non-performing companies and improved the level of its personnel, adding that National was transformed during Karatzas’s eight years at the helm. He also expressed some mild criticism, notably concerning the decision to list the company on the New York Stock Exchange. No strategic investor Asked whether the government intended to sell its remaining 7.5 percent stake in National to a strategic investor, who would also take over the bank’s management, Arapoglou said that the stake was too small to offer to a strategic investor. Moreover, he cast doubt on whether a strategic investor would be appropriate. «If I were the government, I would hold on to my 7.5 percent stake, looking forward to a higher value that will result from the group’s growth,» he said. Arapoglou’s view of the domestic market is in direct contrast to the person who appointed him, Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis. Whereas Alogoskoufis had said that the domestic market needed a number of banks to maintain competition, Arapoglou said that the market’s size does not allow for the current number of banks. He cited Ireland’s example, with just two dominant banks. He said, however, that a new round of mergers is not possible right away because there would be no economies of scale.

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