ECONOMY

Gov’t accuses opposition of using intimidation to stop sale of Emporiki Bank to Credit Agricole

Ministers yesterday accused the main opposition PASOK party of using strong-arm and intimidating tactics to dissuade the administrators of social insurance funds from selling the funds’ stakes in Emporiki Bank to France’s Credit Agricole. At a joint press briefing with Labor Minister Savvas Tsitouridis, Economy Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis referred to «interventions» and «threats» by PASOK cadres to members of the boards of a number of funds, some of whom ended up resigning. The government, which on Tuesday accepted Credit Agricole’s improved offer of 25 euros per share for Emporiki Bank, directly owns 11 percent of Greece’s fifth-largest lender, and will raise about 380 million euros from the sale. Social insurance funds and other public agencies, including the Social Insurance Foundation (IKA) and the Manpower Organization (OAED) whose boards are government appointed, own smaller stakes in Emporiki. Credit Agricole made an offer for 100 percent of the Greek bank and is targeting a minimum of 40 percent to add to its existing control of 11 percent of voting rights in order to wrest the majority. Further large tranches of shares are owned by Greek and foreign institutional investors. Tsitouridis charged that the opposition’s tactics «were in disagreement with what the majority of the Greek people want.» Alogoskoufis denied that the government had pressured fund administrators to sell, but added that they had to act in the best interests of those insured. The deadline for funds to decide whether to accept the French offer expires on Monday. Credit Agricole is now estimated to have gained about 34.99 percent of Emporiki.