Gov’t plans to shed major share in ATE

The government plans to reduce its holding in ATE Bank to 51 from 85 percent by 2007, a high-level source close to the procedure said yesterday. ATE Bank, along with Emporiki Bank and Postal Savings, are included in the government’s privatization agenda for next year as Greece targets a reduction of its public debt, which is the highest in the eurozone as a percent of GDP. «Most likely the government will sell a stake of 15 to 20 percent in the first half of 2006 and a second tranche in the following year to lower its holding in ATE Bank to 51 percent,» the source told Reuters. Based on ATE Bank’s current market value of 4.45 billion euros ($5.2 billion), a sale of 20 percent could fetch about 890 million euros for state coffers. Greece is targeting proceeds of 1.65 billion euros next year from state asset sales to bring its public debt down to 104.8 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) from an estimated 107.9 percent this year. The government is also planning to sell its direct 9.5 percent stake in Emporiki Bank by the first quarter of next year. «ATE Bank will come after Emporiki, and then Postal Savings will follow,» the source said. Shares of ATE Bank are up 37 percent this year to date. They closed 1.63 percent lower at 4.84 euros yesterday. (Reuters)