Merger of top banks still in limbo

Alpha Bank’s board director, Dimitris Fotopoulos, yesterday waded into the controversy surrounding the proposed merger of the bank with National Bank of Greece (NBG) as he slammed Alpha’s employee union and urged Alpha governor Yiannis Costopoulos to stick to the December 20 agreement on division of managerial responsibilities. Fotopoulos, who is also the deputy general secretary of the Greek Federation of Bank Employee Unions, said that Costopoulos was in effect held hostage by Alpha’s employee union. «Costopoulos is a hostage of his managers and trade union leaders, who have chosen to go over to his enemies,» he charged. Fotopoulos’s decision to go public with his opinions is in stark contrast with his counterparts at NBG, none of whom have issued any statement on the issue. NBG and Alpha’s much-heralded merger plans ran into trouble over the weekend as their respective employee unions, acting as front men for their managers, held a slanging match over the proposed allocation of managerial tasks at the integrated bank. Fotopoulos urged the Alpha Bank governor to honor his agreement with NBG and to expose the conspiracy between the managers and employee unions. Asked for his comments on the subject, Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis said the two banks can handle the issue without any interference from the government. Development Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos was less reticent on the subject as he questioned the ability of a Greek company to compete at the European level without the necessary boost to its size. «How can anyone participate [in the eurozone] without ensuring mergers, unions and increased strength?» he queried. Notwithstanding this argument, he said the government does not plan to get involved as it is «strictly an issue for both banks.» In the meantime, NBG governor Theodoros Karatzas met with Alpha’s Costopoulos yesterday. They did not issue any statement after the meeting.

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