National Bank suggests buyouts to continue in the broader region

Greece’s largest lender National Bank (NBG) may buy more banks in the Balkans, Ukraine and Egypt, while increasing its business in Turkey, its chief executive said yesterday. «We are eyeing acquisitions in Serbia, Romania, Ukraine and Egypt,» Chief Executive Takis Arapoglou told an annual shareholders’ meeting. «It is possible we will announce one more buyout by the next general assembly of shareholders.» Earlier in April, National Bank clinched the biggest-ever Greek-Turkish business deal by agreeing to buy a 46 percent stake in Turkey’s mid-sized Finansbank, including its brokerage unit, the country’s second largest. The deal will give National a foothold in Turkish banking as part of its strategy to become a leading player in Southeastern Europe. Arapoglou ruled out any further acquisitions in Turkey for the time being, and said the bank will pursue a strategy of organic growth instead. «National Bank will not use Finansbank for further acquisitions in Turkey. We will proceed with organic growth there (in Turkey),» he told shareholders. He said National Bank would tender for Finansbank minority shares toward the end of 2006. «The public offer for the minority interests of Finansbank is expected in the last quarter of the year,» he said. To pay for the acquisition, the group has announced plans for a 3-billion-euro rights issue, which will be voted on at a May 9 repeat general meeting, as there was no quorum yesterday. The terms of the rights issue were not disclosed. «If there are remaining funds from (the 3-billion-euro rights issue) we will return them to shareholders either via a share buyback or a special dividend,» NBG’s Chief Executive Arapoglou said. In a separate statement, the bank said that underwriters had committed to fully cover the planned capital increase. «They have committed to cover the entire issue with a set discount,» the bank said. (Reuters) US teachers’ fund «Can anyone expect that the US teachers’ fund is planning to wrest control of the National Bank?» Arapoglou asked in a rhetorical question designed to put to rest rumors that the bank is in danger of falling into foreign hands. He noted that of the hundreds of foreign institutional investors that hold stakes in NBG, no one has more than 0.5 percent. Such a scenario is a Greek invention as «foreign investors neither desire nor take an interest in such a possibility,» he said.

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