ECONOMY

Cyprus’s Laiki eyes Marfin and Egnatia

NICOSIA (AFP) – Cyprus’s second-largest bank, Laiki, announced yesterday a bid for Greek financial institutions Marfin Financial Group and Egnatia Bank as part of a three-way merger to create a bank with assets topping 20 billion dollars. Laiki told the Cyprus Stock Exchange it was offering 5.7570 shares for each Marfin share and 1.2090 shares for every Egnatia share. The bid values Marfin shares at 30 euros and Egnatia at 6.30 euros each. Laiki is aiming to increase its share capital by 465.4 million shares at an exchange price of 5.21 euros, which sees them value the merger at 2.415 billion euros. «This is an historic moment,» Laiki Chairman Neocles Lyssandrou told a news conference. «Undoubtedly, for us at Laiki this is the most significant milestone in our more than 100-year history.» Lyssandrou said. «History would not forgive» the bank if it did not seize this opportunity. The Cypriot bank plans to hold an extraordinary general meeting on October 24 aimed at approving the increase in share capital to finance the deal. Laiki said the merger was aimed at creating a «powerful banking group in Southeast Europe,» putting it first in the Cyprus market and second in Greece. «The new group at the end of 2006 would have assets of 22.3 billion euros, 300 branches and a presence in 13 countries,» a Laiki statement said. The bank also aims to be the biggest company on the Nicosia exchange and the third largest on the Athens bourse. It calculates the new group will enjoy total deposits reaching 15.8 billion euros by the end of 2006. Laiki forecasts the new banking group can expect net profits in the region of 510 million euros by 2009. Marfin owns around 10 percent of Laiki and more than 36 percent of Egnatia, while the largest shareholder in Marfin is Dubai Financial with a 31.5 percent stake. For the merger to go through, Laiki said it needed to acquire a minimum 40 percent of both groups. If official approval is forthcoming, Laiki offer will run from October 9 and November 22. The Cypriot bank also has a presence in Britain, Australia and Serbia.