Leave populism out of business

The pessimistic predictions did not come to pass. The national humiliation did not occur. The Cassandras foreseeing the «de-Hellenization» of National Bank of Greece (NBG) were not vindicated. Despite the unfavorable market circumstances, the bank’s mammoth 3-billion-euro rights issue will be fully covered and no shares will be left undistributed; 9.2 percent of National’s shares changed hands but the issue was covered. Therefore, all those who vehemently criticized the bank’s CEO Takis Arapoglou, saying that he planned it all to offer the undistributed shares to Citibank, must now improve their arguments. Like those who despite initially criticizing the terms of the rights issue later fought to take part in it. In the end, it seems that foreign institutionals’ holdings in NBG will rise to 45 percent from 39 percent previously; the majority will remain in Greek hands, private and institutional, as they have assumed the largest part of the risk. However, this realization must bring us back to the real issues: After we have rid ourselves of the easy populism of «de-Hellenization,» do we wish NBG to have such high Balkan exposure? How is the largest Greek bank going to utilize the large amounts of capital it has now amassed? Will it improve returns in coming years to shareholders, a large part of whom are social insurance funds? These are the questions that usually concern and often divide public opinion when a big takeover bid takes place. What we can do without is the unbridled politicization of a business move that should be judged on such criteria alone, without undue suspicions.