ECONOMY

Commercial likes French link

Commercial Bank said yesterday it would welcome any move by French retail bank Credit Agricole to up its stake from the 6.7 percent it currently holds in Greece’s third largest bank (in terms of assets). Our cooperation is excellent. Any possible increase in Credit Agricole’s stake would be welcome. We desire it, Commercial Bank Chairman Yiannis Stournaras told Reuters. His comments came ahead of Credit Agricole’s flotation on Euronext Paris, a move that has set up speculation about what the French bank will do with the money. Italian media had reported that the bank planned to raise its stake in Italy’s IntesaBci, but Credit Agricole said it would maintain its holding within its current 15-18 percent range. The French bank bought a 6.7-percent stake in Commercial for 94 billion drachmas ($247.6 million) in June 2000 and has an option to raise its stake by another 2.1 percent. But it also has right of first refusal to another 12-percent stake in Commercial, currently held by state-run financial agencies, the Post Office Savings Bank and the Loans and Consignment Fund. Since Credit Agricole acquired a stake in Commercial, the two banks have collaborated on establishing a bancassurance subsidiary, mutual funds and investment banking. In Paris, the French bank had no comment on whether it planned to raise its stake in Commercial. After the merger recently of Greece’s two largest commercial banks – National and Alpha – Commercial Bank ranks third in assets and market share of lending and deposits, with a national network of 380 branches.