Laiki Bank shareholders postpone merger approval

NICOSIA (Reuters) – Shareholders of Cyprus’s Laiki Group yesterday postponed for one week a general meeting to ratify a three-way merger worth $3.02 billion with Marfin Financial Services and Egnatia Bank of Greece. Shareholders accepted a suggestion of board members for a seven-day adjournment after a small number of stakeholders sought additional clarifications concerning the deal. The planned merger was mired in a very public row between the present board of Laiki and its former chairman who opposed the linkup. The former chairman, Kikis Lazarides, was not seen at the shareholders’ meeting. He quit earlier in the year, about six months after Marfin snapped up a stake in the Cypriot bank. «We have suggested a seven-day postponement until next Tuesday and to give those shareholders who requested it detailed information,» Marfin Chief Executive and Vice Chairman Andreas Vgenopoulos told a packed gathering in the Cypriot capital Nicosia. Vgenopoulos and Lazarides have clashed in recent days, accusing each other of using underhand tactics to pursue their aims. The island’s central bank yesterday said that some of the allegations would be investigated. Laiki said it would operate a data room for shareholders to obtain information. «It will be inconceivable for any shareholder to then say they are not informed enough,» Vgenopoulos said. Laiki is offering 465.4 million new shares, valued at 3 Cyprus pounds each, to shareholders of the other two banks in a bid valued in total at 1.39 billion Cyprus pounds. The Cypriot bank is offering 5.7570 Laiki shares for each Marfin share and 1.2090 for each Egnatia share. It has valued Marfin at 30 euros a share and Egnatia at 6.30 euros per share. From the outset a faction of Laiki shareholders had said they were getting a raw deal, with some claiming the Cypriot bank was paying too much. Laiki has said that once the merger is completed it would apply for a listing of its shares on the Athens and Dubai stock exchanges. Marfin controls just over 10 percent of Laiki and more than 36 percent of Egnatia. It acquired its stake in Laiki earlier this year after obtaining part of a 20 percent stake disposed of by Britain’s HSBC. The Greek concern is 31.5 percent-owned by investment fund Dubai Financial. The Dubai-based group was expected to remain a major shareholder in the new structure.