No dividend from ETBA for 2001

Shareholders of Hellenic Industrial Development Bank (ETBA) yesterday endorsed the bank’s decision not to pay a dividend for the year 2001 because of a hefty one-off charge incurred last year related to high compound interest cases. ETBA said write-offs and increased provisions connected to outstanding cases involving borrowers faced with huge compound interest cost it 58.7 billion euros and contributed to a 8.2-million-euro loss last year. Confronted with pleas for help from businesses, the government in the last two years has pushed through two bills forcing the banks to loosen repayment terms for borrowers burdened with high compound interest. Underlining the problems faced by state-controlled banks, ETBA said non-performing loans account for a fifth of its loan portfolio. ETBA, in which private-sector bank Piraeus Bank acquired a 55.7-percent stake in March, expects to reap the benefits from the linkup this year, Iakovos Georganas, the bank’s governor, told shareholders. He said the bank will focus on long-term credit, investment banking, community-funded projects and industrial parks. It will also offer Piraeus’s retail products in its branches. In addition, the two banks plan to team up in asset management and stockbrokerage activities. Georganas said ETBA is ready to offload 10 industrial zones, among them those in Thessaloniki, Ioannina, Preveza, Lamia, and Larissa, with an estimated total area of 950,000 square meters, to companies already located on the premises. This should help boost revenues this year. The zones, located around the country, contributed net revenues of 11.7 million euros last year, down 11.7 percent. The divestment plan is part of ETBA’s strategy of pulling out from non-financial activities. Earlier this year, it sold off its majority stake in Hellenic Shipyards to a German consortium.