Bankers are anticipating the signal

Merger and acquisition (M&A) mobility elsewhere in Europe or globally does not seem to have much of an influence over domestic developments, as such moves in Greece are being debated on an unofficial level. Various scenarios that become public from time to time are often scrapped after a while, and a popular belief is that any developments in the financial sector would have to be initiated by the government. This particular view is primarily explained by the fact that the state still holds majority stakes in ATEbank and Postal Savings Bank, while the Economy and Finance Ministry has the first say over the future of Attica Bank. Consequently, any fresh arrangements and moves would be largely dictated by the ministry’s decisions. Reports say Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis remains firm in insisting that foreign capital should be allowed to enter the country to invest in the financial sector. Officials and sources close to Alogoskoufis say the minister would not be willing to change his mind on certain issues, as he believes that foreign capital would better facilitate competition. What this means in practice is that even should a strategic partner be found for Postal Savings Bank, the preference would be on a foreign investor. This in turn rubs interested Greek groups the wrong way, but the ministry does seem more willing to move in a similar direction as what it did with Emporiki Bank (sold about a year ago to France’s Credit Agricole). The government is considering retaining a stake of 35 percent in Postal Savings Bank, which means a new placement would have to take place some time in the near future. With regard to ATEbank, according to sources, the state is likely to reduce its stake to around 51 percent. But no further future plans are clear as yet. Various developments are also circulating on the market regarding a deal between two major banks, National Bank of Greece and Alpha Bank, but none seems to hold true.