Marfin: BOC buy was OK

NICOSIA (Reuters) – Marfin Popular Bank confirmed yesterday it was under investigation for a potential legal breach over acquiring a stake in Bank of Cyprus (BoC) but said there was nothing wrong in the transaction. Marfin (MPB), primarily active in Greece and Cyprus, acquired an 8.07 percent stake in the Cypriot lender in March. On May 25 Cyprus’s competition regulator said it wanted explanations from Marfin on why it was not notified of the transaction, as dictated by law. «On the basis of current legislation and common sense, MPB does not accept any alleged violation of the provisions of the law,» Marfin said in a news release. The competition regulator, responsible for vetting all mergers and acquisitions in Cyprus, issued a prima facie ruling on a potential legal transgression, which does not imply a conclusion but scope for further investigation. A hearing with the regulator had been scheduled for June 12, Marfin said. Marfin acquired its Bank of Cyprus stake from Greece’s Piraeus Bank. «It is obvious that this acquisition does not constitute a controlling stake and thus a concentration,» Marfin said. It said it reserved the right to challenge any decision on the issue by the regulator in court. Last week Marfin pulled an offer for a partial merger with Bank of Cyprus at the urging of the Cyprus Orthodox Church, which controls about 5 percent of BoC.

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