ECONOMY

Timetable set on selling off state shares in three banks

The government believes that the sale of a stake in three banks it currently controls (ATEbank, Postal Savings Bank and Emporiki Bank) will be completed by September. The timetable, as well as a summary of actions taken at the three banks to prepare them for privatization, was jointly presented yesterday to the Inner Cabinet by the ministers of Economy and Finance Giorgos Alogoskoufis, Development Dimitris Sioufas and Employment Savvas Tsitouridis. The three ministers also proposed to list the Public Gas Corporation (DEPA) in 2007. According to the timetable, the part-privatization of ATEbank, will happen over the next few weeks, certainly within March. The government will sell a stake of about 10 percent in the bank, hoping to raise about 500 million euros from the proceeds. Next in line is the Postal Savings Bank, a small bank but with a very important housing loans portfolio. The government wants to list the bank by a selling a 20-30 percent stake for an estimated 250 million euros. Finally, the biggest catch of all is Emporiki bank. The state directly controls 9.26 percent, through DEKA, the State Portfolio Management Agency. Together with pension funds represented through the Economy and Finance Minister, it has a 22 percent stake, which is enough to control the bank: The government appointed the chairman, Professor Giorgos Provopoulos, and the majority of the board in 2004. The government wants to completely disengage from Emporiki and expects to get about 800 million euros from the proceeds of the sale, which will take place in September. Concerning ATEbank, it increased its capital by 1.192 billion euros, with preference given to old shareholders, including the state, who could buy new shares at 2 euros per share. Since then, the share price has rallied significantly, closing at 5.98 euros yesterday. The bank achieved very good results in 2005 and the ministers agreed that the state is ready to sell part of its stake at a good price through an offer to institutional investors. The sale will increase the stock’s dispersion and liquidity. In June 2005, the government’s Privatization Committee decided to list the Postal Savings Bank on the Athens Stock Exchange, through a combination of offers to the public at large and to institutional investors. The exact amount of shares to be sold will be set by the committee. The Greek state’s privatization adviser will also report on the possibility of a share swap with the state-owned Hellenic Post by the end of March. Emporiki’s capital increase, by 397.2 million euros, was successfully completed in November 2005, with old shareholders, including the state, given first preference at a price of 15 euros per share. The share price at yesterday’s close was 29.78 euros. The Privatization Committee has also proposed to consider the sale, or long-term lease, of assets belonging to Hellenic Tourism Properties, such as marinas, a golf course in Rhodes, hotels and the Corfu casino.