ECONOMY

Bank of Cyprus keeps an eye out for a suitable Greek acquisition target

NICOSIA – Bank of Cyprus has not ruled out acquisitions in Greece in a bid to boost its market share, but has yet to find a suitable opportunity, a senior official said yesterday. «If we do find a suitable acquisition opportunity which would be at a reasonable price and we would feel it adds value for our shareholders we would be very interested,» Deputy Chief Executive Officer Harilaos Stavrakis told Reuters. «We are constantly evaluating opportunities in the Greek banking market,» he said. Asked if the bank had found any good acquisition targets, Stavrakis said: «Not yet. There is nothing to announce.» The Cypriot lender, Cyprus’s largest, recently rejected a takeover offer from Greece’s Piraeus Bank, which owns just under 10 percent in the Nicosia-based bank. Bank of Cyprus on Tuesday also managed to shake off a takeover offer from rival bank Marfin Popular when the island’s Cyprus Stock Exchange blocked the bid. Yesterday, Cyprus’s Phileleftheros daily said BoC was eyeing Greece’s Geniki Bank, majority-owned by France’s Societe Generale, the Greek outlet of HSBC and Probank, a small Greek bank. Stavrakis declined to comment on the banks mentioned in the report. In 2006 BoC mounted a -3.78 billion cash and stock bid for Greece’s significantly larger Emporiki Bank but later withdrew. Emporiki was later acquired by Credit Agricole. Stavrakis said the Greek market was of strategic importance to BoC, which was why it had bid for Emporiki. «We want to expand out network there… (but) with acquisitions you cannot totally plan in advance. We want to be ready, if there is a suitable opportunity in the market to be able to move quickly.» BoC now has a 4.0 percent market share in the neighbouring country, and a network of 120 branches. It plans to open a branch in Russia later this year.