National sees crucial year ahead

National Bank (NBG), the country’s largest lender, described 2010 as being a «crucial» year, adding that Greece’s banking system is in good shape to handle the difficult conditions. National Bank CEO Apostolos Tamvakakis, who recently replaced Takis Arapoglou, said yesterday the government’s fiscal outlook for 2010, to be outlined in the EU’s growth pact in January, will play a key role in determining NBG’s strategy for next year. «Greece faces the difficult bet of restoring its credibility. Everyone needs to get involved in order to handle the difficult moments,» he told reporters. The capital adequacy of Greek banks means the sector is better placed to face upcoming challenges than many of its EU peers, added the CEO. «Our core Tier 1 capital is at 8.8 percent versus 8 percent in Europe,» Tamvakakis said. Core Tier 1 is a ratio that is used to determine the overall health of a bank and takes into account shareholders equity and retained earnings. Referring to the bank’s 18-billion-euro Greek bond portfolio, Tamvakakis said NBG would continue to fund the Greek state even if Moody’s downgrades the country’s sovereign rating. Moody’s is widely expected to reduce its Greece rating in the coming weeks after Fitch and Standard & Poor’s did so earlier this month. NBG also intends to reduce the money it has borrowed from the European Central Bank to 6 billion euros by the end of 2010 from 9.5 billion euros in September this year, said Tamvakakis.

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