The top management of Greece’s General Bank unexpectedly resigned yesterday, clouding the outlook for key presentations to potential European strategic partners which are expected in a few weeks. Sources told Reuters the change was prompted by a Defense Ministry decision to replace General Manager Yiannis Mourgelas. The bank is 38-percent owned by the Greek army pension fund, giving the ministry a key role in choosing the bank’s leaders. Mourgelas’s departure resulted in the resignation of the bank’s top executive – Managing Director Yiannis Manos – and Spyros Pantelias, the deputy general manager. The bank’s board picked Agricultural Bank’s Deputy Governor Antonis Hasiotis to replace Manos as the new president and managing director, according to a General Bank statement. Analysts were surprised by the change, given the bank’s search for a strategic partner. «We were not expecting this… given that the previous team was generally seen as successful,» said analyst Dimitris Skapinakis at Marfin Hellenic Securities. Another analyst, who asked not to be named, said: «Changes like this do not look good and may not please potential buyers. The fact that the government looks like it still has a lot of say will probably not help its search for a strategic partner.» General Bank, which is being advised by Rothschild on its search for a European alliance, reported a 125-percent rise in 2001 pretax profit last month to 12.45 million euros. The bank acquired 80 percent of Athens Stock Exchange member ABN Amro Securities in November and is aiming to increase its market share in lending to 4 percent by 2004. The management change came shortly before scheduled management presentations to potential strategic investors in General Bank – among them France’s Societe Generale and Italy’s San Paolo IMI. It has said it hopes an alliance with a European bank would broaden its product range, attract experience and give the bank access to foreign capital markets. Its shares ended 1.49 percent higher at 10.90 euros in thin trade yesterday, bringing its market capitalization to 288.3 million euros.