Simple Alpha Bank structure key to investor interest

With its simple shareholder structure, Alpha Bank, the largest privately owned bank in Greece, makes it an ideal partner for European banks looking to boost their presence in the region via joint ventures, US investment bank Schroder Salomon Smith Barney (SSSB) said yesterday in a research note. SSSB said Alpha’s large, 76-percent free float, simplified shareholder composition and absence of government shareholding makes it «one of the partners of choice for European banks considering international joint ventures in the region.» It said a simple shareholder structure makes it easy for a company to reach agreement with other organizations and also facilitates distribution. Shareholders in turn «feel more protected against discrimination in the case of mergers and acquisitions.» Apart from a 14-percent stake held by Yiannis Costopoulos, head of Alpha Bank, and his associates, retail shareholders are the largest group of stakeholders, controlling 45 percent of bank equity. Institutional investors, locally and abroad, hold an estimated 31-percent share. The bank owns some 10 percent of shares in treasury stock. SSSB said that Alpha’s failed merger with the National Bank of Greece could delay investor appetite but should not affect its customer base. «We don’t see interest from the international investor community and don’t think there will be any at least toward mid-2002,» it said. It said the Greek bank for its part is not expected to take part in M&A activity in the next six to nine months, preferring instead a full merger. SSSB also predicted «subdued» earnings for Alpha to last until the second half of the year. Alpha is due to report 2001 results today. The US bank issued a medium-risk rating for Alpha, saying the volatility affecting the Greek bank’s share price in the final months of 2001 is expected to come to an end. «Helberica will launch operations in July with two production lines in chocolate snacks. Our target is not just the Spanish market but Latin America. Our Spanish partners already have a sizable presence in these markets.

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