ECONOMY

Piraeus withdraws purchase offer

Piraeus Bank, Greece’s fourth-largest lender, withdrew an offer to acquire the government’s stakes in two banks for 701 million euros after getting no response from the state. «Two-and-a-half months after the expression of interest for ATEbank and Hellenic Postbank [TT], Piraeus Bank withdraws its interest, noting that relevant decisions are not pending in the immediate future,» managing director Stavros Lekkakos said yesterday. Piraeus offered to buy the government’s stakes in ATEbank and TT in July after Finance Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou called for the country’s banks to merge as loan losses rise and asset quality worsens. The Greek government hired Lazard, Deutsche Bank and HSBC Holdings in August to devise a plan for the state’s holdings in the country’s banks amid pressure to raise money by selling assets. The banks have yet to make the report public. Following the news, Piraeus shares added 1.97 percent to end at 3.63 euros. TT shares fell 3.07 percent to 4.10 euros. ATEbank shares gained 2.20 percent to 0.93 cents versus a 0.30 percent advance on the broader market. «For Piraeus it would always have been a difficult acquisition, as it would have needed to raise capital to do it, which in the current climate would not have been ideal,» Unicredit analyst Tania Gold told Reuters. «I would not rule out National Bank or Eurobank bidding for TT as they both already have stakes.» Government officials were not immediately available for comment. ATEbank has said it would prefer a quadruple merger than teaming up with Piraeus. Its chief has counterproposed merging with TT, Attica Bank and the Loans and Consignments Fund to form a strong state-controlled pillar in the country’s banking system.