Banks give thumbs up to plan

Greek banks said yesterday they support the government’s 28-billion-euro bank package aimed at boosting their capital base and increasing liquidity in the domestic economy, adding that it is up to each lender to decide whether to participate in the plan. The Hellenic Bank Association (HBA), which represents 27 banks operating in Greece, said it supports the measures despite protests from some of its members. «HBA considers that the proposed measures are in the right direction to boost the Greek economy and as a result support banks,» HBA said. The capital injection scheme, which the government says is designed primarily to cushion the effect of global financial turmoil in the country by keeping loans flowing through to small businesses and households, provides as much as 15 billion euros to fund new bank loans or to refinance existing ones. The government has earmarked up to 5 billion euros in order to purchase preferred shares as part of its plan. Under the terms of the scheme, which has yet to be ratified by Parliament, banks that decide to participate will be subject to restrictions on pay, bonuses and dividends. State-controlled ATEbank was the first to volunteer for the package, despite acknowledging that it does not need it. «ATEbank has accepted to take part in the government plan…despite the fact that it has sufficient liquidity and one of the best loans-to-deposit ratios in the market,» said ATEbank, which is 77 percent owned by the state. Lenders have until February 1 to decide if they will make use of any of the plan’s facilities. Meanwhile, Eurobank and Piraeus Bank have followed in the footsteps of National Bank and announced measures aimed at shielding low income groups from the global financial crisis, such as temporarily halving home loan payments, while also freezing mortgage and consumer loan payments.