ECONOMY

FBB overcomes early skepticism

First Business Bank (FBB) may be the sixth-largest Greek bank in total assets but it is the only one that focuses so heavily on funding shipping, as by the end of 2004 some 43 percent of its loan portfolio ($391 million) involved shipping. In its third year of operation, FBB effectively continues the activities of the Bank of Nova Scotia, from Canada, which, after its acquisition of Scotia Bank at the end of 2001, made the strategic decision to leave Europe. A majority (51 percent) of FBB’s shares is controlled by well-known shipping families, including the Restis group, the Constantakopoulos group (Costamare) and the Martinos group (Thenamaris, Minerva Maritime, etc). Another 44 percent belongs to the Agricultural Bank, whose president, Dimitris Miliakos, chairs the FBB governing board, while the Bank of Nova Scotia has retained a 5 percent stake which is expected to be acquired by the Agricultural Bank soon, according to an agreement. As the bank is controlled by shipping interests, this could evoke negative impressions about lending to rival groups in the shipping sector. At an event held by the bank this week, FBB’s general director for shipping, Nikos Vouyoukas, admitted that several clients had initially been skeptical, but added that this has been overcome to a great extent. According to data to the end of May, the bank has funded a total of 116 vessels, with the balance of loans already paid at $398 million and those to be paid at $52 million, i.e. a total of $450 million.