Laiki Bank will not be affected by the sale of HSBC’s stake in it

NICOSIA (Reuters) – Cyprus bank Laiki said yesterday the exit of the world’s third-largest bank, HSBC Holdings Plc from the group would not affect its operations. Laiki confirmed on Tuesday that HSBC planned to dispose of its 21.16 percent stake in the bank, following weeks of speculation. Neither side has disclosed how HSBC plans to dispose of its shares, and a Greek bank slated by media reports as the likely buyer said it had not been approached. Laiki has a market capitalization of 631 million Cyprus pounds (1.1 billion euros), indicating HSBC’s stake is worth 230 million euros. HSBC confirmed it may reduce or sell its stake, but did not provide further details. Laiki Group Managing Director Michael Erotocritos told Reuters yesterday he did not know to whom HSBC was talking. «This departure will not have any impact whatsoever on the activities or operations of Laiki,» Erotocritos said. «Laiki is in a position to handle situations and issues very effectively.» Some media reports have suggested HSBC was in talks with Greek bank Marfin. But a spokesman for Marfin yesterday said the group had no prior knowledge that HSBC was interested in disposing of the Laiki stake. «We are not saying that we are interested, or that we are not interested,» the spokesman said. HSBC’s departure follows weeks of speculation that it was seeking an exit from the Cypriot bank because it did not fit in with its strategy. Cyprus’s central bank said it was monitoring developments, but one former senior official at the bank said HSBC’s departure was disappointing. «It certainly can’t be seen as a pleasant development,» former Cypriot Central Bank governor Afxentis Afxentiou told Phileleftheros newspaper. Erotocritos said there was no truth to speculation in one newspaper of frosty relations between the two banks. «That is certainly untrue, and we deny this. There were no disagreements.»

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