Dubai Financial expresses intent to buy chunk of Marfin

A Dubai-based group has expressed its intention to buy a significant stake in Greece’s Marfin Financial Group for slightly more than 420 million euros, Marfin said yesterday. The deal would give Dubai Financial a 31.55 percent stake in one of Greece’s most dynamic financial groups. Marfin said Dubai Financial, a unit of Dubai Investment Group (DIG), has already signed purchase and sale agreements with minority shareholders that declare Dubai Financial’s intention to become a strategic investor in Marfin. Dubai Financial will pay 25 euros a share for the stake, subject to certain conditions being met. Marfin said Dubai Financial will conclude its purchase agreements with minority shareholders within the next two months. «Fifteen strategic Greek and foreign investors in Marfin decided to facilitate the entrance of Dubai Financial into the group,» said a source close to the deal. According to the agreement, Marfin vice chairman Andreas Vgenopoulos would retain his 6.75 percent stake in the bank and continue to oversee the company’s business plan. Dubai Financial said Deutsche Bank AG acted as adviser for the purchase. Marfin Financial Group has a market capitalization of slightly more than 1.25 billion euros. Its main subsidiaries are its 100-percent-owned units Marfin Bank and Investment Bank of Greece. It is the largest shareholder in Cyprus Popular Bank with a 10 percent stake, also holding a 50.1 percent of Estonia’s SBM Bank and has a 14 percent stake in Greece’s Egnatia Bank. Marfin’s shares closed 4.27 percent down at 25.56 euros in Athens yesterday. DIG is a subsidiary of Dubai Holding, which was founded in October 2004 with the aim of consolidating the emirate’s large array of investment and infrastructure projects. The parent group has holdings in more than 20 companies active in the sectors of health, technology, finance, real estate, education, tourism, energy, communications, industry and biotechnology. With offices in London, New York and Kuala Lumpur, DIG is also looking into investment opportunities in the financial sector in Turkey, Malaysia and Indonesia. ‘Significant’ investment Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis welcomed the acquisition as a significant foreign investment. «Such developments are consistent with the government’s goal of making Greece a center for attracting investment in the broader area of southeastern Europe,» he said. The development comes in the midst of intensive government preparations to promote its privatization program in the Greek banking sector. On Thursday, the government announced the appointment of Citigroup as adviser in the open tender for the sale, initially, of a stake of about 10 percent in Emporiki Bank – the country’s fourth largest lender. The sale of a 10-15 percent in ATEbank to foreign investors is also expected to be announced in a matter of days.