BoC urges rebuff of Marfin offer

NICOSIA (Reuters) – Bank of Cyprus (BoC) urged its shareholders yesterday to rebuff a partial merger offer from Marfin Popular Bank (MPB), a main stakeholder in the Cypriot concern. Management at BoC rejected a proposal from Marfin in April to merge their overseas divisions. Marfin owns about 9 percent in BoC, the island’s largest lender. In a letter sent to shareholders ahead of a June 6 meeting, BoC accused MPB of attempting an acquisition «on the cheap» and said that the offer was a thinly veiled attempt to gain control of the bank. «A possible acceptance of MPB’s proposal would lead to endless discussions and the derailment of our bank’s certain and steadily growing development, with the sole aim of enabling MPB’s shareholders to share the benefits which you enjoy today,» BoC said in the letter to shareholders. Marfin says a merger could create the second-largest Greek bank in which both stand to gain. Both banks are separately pursuing expansion in Eastern Europe, with Marfin having recently acquired a bank in Ukraine and BoC poised to start full banking operations in Russia. Marfin has secured approval from its own shareholders to pursue discussions with BoC on its offer, provided BoC secures a similar mandate from its stakeholders. Last year BoC rejected a takeover offer from Greece’s Piraeus Bank, which subsequently sold its 8.07 percent shareholding to Marfin.