ECONOMY

NBG denies plan to buy shares back from government

Greece’s largest lender by assets, National Bank (NBG), has not asked the State to sell its 7.5 percent stake to the bank but it would consider acquiring the stake if the State decides to offload the shares, its CEO said yesterday. «If the State decides to sell its stake in National Bank, then we may consider the issue (of buying it),» NBG Chief Executive Takis Arapoglou told Reuters. But he added the bank has «no such intention» currently. «Something like this is not technically easy,» Arapoglou said. The Imerisia daily reported yesterday the bank’s CEO had asked Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis to sell the State’s direct stake to the bank. The government is expected to speed up its privatization program after the Olympic Games to reach its target of 2 billion euros in revenues this year, with the proceeds used to plug budget holes and to pay off public debt. The State placed 11 percent of NBG in October last year, raising 490 million euros. It now controls a direct 7.5 percent stake in NBG, with Greek institutional investors holding a fifth of the bank’s shares, foreign investors 18 percent and pension funds around 17 percent. Based on Friday’s closing price of 17.34 euros, a 7.5 percent stake is valued at about 431 million euros. (Reuters)