Alogoskoufis throws down gauntlet to Credit Agricole

Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis said yesterday a clause allowing France’s Credit Agricole to sell back its stake in Emporiki Bank at the original acquisition price was incompatible with Greek law. «There is a clause that is unacceptable and not compatible with Greek law, a clause which says the French can sell the shares back to Emporiki at the original price,» he told Greek state radio NET. «Our legal services tell us this clause is not compatible with Greek law and therefore cannot be enforced,» he said. Credit Agricole acquired about 11 percent of Emporiki Bank in November 2000, under the previous PASOK government. The deal gave the French bank the right to pull out, selling the shares back at the original purchase price. A Credit Agricole spokesman in Paris declined to comment. Emporiki, Greece’s fourth-largest lender, is in the midst of a rights issue to raise 397 million euros ($464.6 million) to boost its equity, which eroded after resolving pension fund liabilities. The French bank has not said whether it will take part, sparking speculation it may be looking to sell. A banking source told Reuters earlier in the month that Credit Agricole was keeping all options open regarding its stake. The government has said it intends to sell its holding in Emporiki next year as part of its state divestments program to raise cash to pay down public debt. The government, through state portfolio management agency DEKA, holds a 9.16 percent stake in Emporiki. DEKA has said it will participate in the rights issue. Prosecutors on Monday launched an investigation into the case after a Kathimerini report last week. The total value of Credit Agricole’s holding is now estimated at 100 million euros less than the purchase price. Emporiki shares closed 0.9 percent lower at 24 euros yesterday. The bank has a market value of 3.21 billion euros. (Reuters, Kathimerini)

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