ECONOMY

Big mergers aren’t easy in Greek banking

There is room for further consolidation in Greek banking but creating bigger banking groups is not easy, EFG Eurobank’s chief executive told Sunday’s Kathimerini. «It is accepted that the degree of concentration in Greek banking is already quite high. This does not mean that there is not room for more,» Nicholas Nanopoulos said in an interview. «The banking groups that have been formed are still small vis-a-vis their European peers.» Nanopoulos said forming yet larger and stronger banking groups is a complex undertaking, «especially in Greece, where labor, social and other legal problems do not facilitate large-scale mergers.» Commenting on the rival tenders of Marfin Popular Bank and Piraeus Bank, which do not include cash but only offers of stock and value their takeover targets at or below market value, Nanopoulos said they were not particularly attractive. «These characteristics do not make them particularly enticing for the shareholders of either bank. Of course, the scene may change with the submission of improved offers. It’s a matter of time to see how things will unfold,» he said. Nanopoulos said EFG Eurobank, currently Greece’s third-largest lender, will be generating at least 30 percent of its revenues and 20 percent of its profit from activities abroad by 2009. The group is also present in Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, Poland, Turkey and Ukraine. He said foreign capital inflows into Greece were a vote of confidence in the economy. But the gradual change in ownership of important businesses away from Greek hands was a concern. «I believe it is crucial for important Greek enterprises to remain under Greek shareholder control so that the center of decision making stays in Greece,» he was quoted as saying. (Reuters)