Eurobank interested in Emporiki

EFG Eurobank, Greece’s third-largest lender, has indicated its interest in the privatization of Emporiki Bank – its rival at fourth largest – for which the government will soon initiate procedures. «We shall not remain indifferent to the privatization of Emporiki – everything has a price,» Managing Director Nikos Nanopoulos told a press briefing. The government, which directly or indirectly controls about 42 percent of Emporiki, initially plans to sell about 20-25 percent of the bank. France’s Credit Agricole, which already holds a 9.5 percent interest and 11 percent of voting rights, is considered the favorite, having the right of first refusal. Nanopoulos said it was important for Greek banks to become more competitive within the eurozone. He argued that this is hampered by the low degree to which Greek bank clients use ATMs and the Internet for their transactions, when in Finland, for instance, 90 percent of transactions are conducted via the Web. Nanopoulos expressed concern that the number of young entrepreneurs willing to undertake business initiatives is falling, as a mentality of safe employment with the public sector and state protectionism seems to prevail. He argued that despite this the country has very strong potential and a large number of highly qualified individuals. Finally, Nanopoulos said he was confident in Eurobank’s prospects and that the bank is targeting a return on capital of 25 percent by 2008 and a 20 percent share of foreign operations to turnover by 2009. Eurobank has a presence in Bulgaria, Romania, Poland and Serbia and a stockbrokerage in Turkey.