ECONOMY

Shadows over NBG, Alpha Bank merger

National Bank of Greece (NBG) and Alpha Bank yesterday saw their shares plummet by more than 3 percent yesterday as reports of discord among their trade unions over the division of responsibilities following the merger of both financial institutions spooked investors. NBG stocks were down by 3.69 percent to 24.50 euros and Alpha by 3.23 percent to 18.56 euros at the close of trading yesterday. The banks’ poor performance also dragged down the banking subindex by 2.88 percent and contributed to the 1.97-percent drop in the general share index to 2,523.85 points. NBG’s American Depositary Receipts at the New York Stock Exchange fell by 2.39 percent at the start of trading yesterday. Alpha’s employee union released a statement yesterday calling on NBG to «search among itself those who aim to secure their positions from the merger no matter what the cost.» The union’s response came after its counterpart at NBG met over the weekend and threatened to launch strikes in the event of changes in the proposed organizational structure unveiled last month. It asked that the seven-member executive committee not be changed. NBG head Theodoros Karatzas has been proposed as chairman of the body and Alpha head Yiannis Costopoulos governor. The suggested corporate scheme is based on five business units, staffed by two leading Alpha executives and NBG’s three deputy governors. Constantinos Kyriakopoulos and Dimitrios Mantzounis, both of Alpha Bank, are due to head the investment banking unit and domestic network division respectively. NBG’s deputy governors Theodoros Pantalakis, Apostolos Tamvakakis and Andreas Vranas are expected to take charge of operations, international and retail banking, and corporate banking respectively. NBG and Alpha announced plans to merge in October last year, citing the need to create a financial institution with the necessary scale to compete on a pan-European level. The banks said the move will saddle it with a one-off charge of 220 million euros, which would be partially offset by 85 million euros in revenues from increased sales and cross-selling of products. NBG’s all-stock offer for Alpha represented a 5.5-percent premium on Alpha’s share in the 30 days before the merger was announced.Alpha’s board of directors are due to meet today. The report said that pressure on profit margins and attempts to lift their market share have led to a wave of consolidation among yogurt and ice-cream manufacturers, effectively creating an oligarchy. Of the companies covered in the survey, the two largest manufacturers control more than 50 percent of the market.