National sticking to business plan

National Bank of Greece (NBG), the country’s largest lender, said yesterday it remains on track to meet goals set in its three-year business plan, despite the global economic downturn, as the Greek government works on a plan to boost confidence in the financial services sector. National Bank CEO Takis Arapoglou told reporters in New York that there has been no increase in the bank’s non-performing loans and that objectives set in its 2007-2009 business plan remain unchanged, the Athens News Agency reported. Bank profits are expected to come under pressure this year, after showing robust growth in recent years, as the Greek economy slows under the weight of recent interest rate hikes. Greek banks have relied on expansion in Southeastern Europe and strong credit growth at home to support growth plans, avoiding exposure to the US subprime market. Arapoglou added that the bank is currently in a better position than many of its EU peers and that it is ready to take advantage of opportunities that arise. Foreign investors hold some 53 percent of National Bank, which has a market value of 12.4 billion euros. Greece is likely to announce measures today to support banks amid the global economic crisis that are in line with those outlined by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. According to sources, the government plans to secure liquidity of about 20 billion euros for the country’s banking system over the next two to three years. The mechanism via which state money may find its way to financial institutions may be through the government’s purchase of banks’ preferred stock. The state may also guarantee interbank loans along the lines agreed by world finance ministers at their meetings in Washington and Paris last week. A Cabinet meeting is expected to be held on the issue today.

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