Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis wants to accelerate the privatization of state-owned enterprises, among them the Agricultural Bank of Greece. In this particular case, Christodoulakis would like to see the privatization process begin in the first half of the year. Christodoulakis met yesterday with Agricultural’s governor, Petros Lambrou, and its deputy governor Antonis Hassiotis, to examine the bank’s non-performing loans, which have reached 900 billion drachmas (2.64 billion euros), and the selloff of bank subsidiaries ATE Leasing and dairy company Dodoni. A representative of privatization adviser Morgan Stanley also took part. Agricultural’s provisions cover only about 41 percent of the non-performing loans. The bank also plans to issue share-convertible bonds worth a total of 100 billion drachmas (293.5 million euros) in the first half of 2002. This would dilute the State’s stake in Agricultural ahead of the international tender for a strategic investor in the bank. The government would like to see its stake in Agricultural drop from 85 to 35 percent. Talks between IAS and privatization advisor Credit Suisse First Boston (CSFB) are due to conclude at the end of the month.