ECONOMY

Please, buy our banks

Greece, which is planning to divest holdings in three banks this year, is in favor of foreign lenders entering the country’s banking system on grounds of competition, Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said on Saturday. Greece is planning to sell holdings in ATEbank, Emporiki Bank and Postal Savings (TT) as part of its privatization agenda to reduce public debt, one of the highest in the eurozone as a percent of gross domestic product (GDP). «I think that showing actively that we’re not afraid and do not discourage foreign (banks) is good for two reasons,» the finance minister told financial daily Imerisia in an interview. «First, it is good for the economy’s openness. Secondly, supporting the entry of foreign players into the banking system benefits competition, the economy, employment and consumers,» Alogoskoufis said. The minister said spreads between deposit and lending rates in Greece’s banking system, as well as commissions, remained wide. «These can only be confronted by more intense competition,» he said. The government plans to sell 20-25 percent of Postal Savings (TT) via a listing on the Athens stock exchange this year and reduce its stake in ATEbank. «TT must remain autonomous, meaning it should not be absorbed by a Greek banking group as this would reduce competition,» the minister said, adding that the government would be open to a foreign strategic partner entering TT. On Emporiki Bank, 9 percent owned by France’s Credit Agricole, the minister repeated the government’s intention to fully privatize the bank. (Reuters)