ECONOMY

January will be a busy time for lenders as they seek to boost capital right away

January will be a crucial month for Greece’s financial system as a whole and developments are expected as soon as the first week of the new year. Bank of Piraeus will make the start to be followed by Marfin as they are expected to complete in January their share capital increases, which had suffered from bad timing. As those that monitor banking developments will remember, both lenders announced in October their intention to move ahead with a capital boost a few days before Prime Minister George Papandreou threatened to hold snap general election if his PASOK party performed poorly at the local polls. This announcement resulted in the widening of Greek bond spreads to the 1,000 basis point (bps) mark, from around 650 bps previously, and the sinking of the Athens bourse’s benchmark general index as sentiment generally deteriorated. However, the boards of the two lenders are now sending out positive messages, indicating that the cash will be raised without any problems, though whether this will be the case remains to be seen. Time is ticking away for the two lenders and for the banking system as a whole, as it is poised to face a second pan-European stress test. January, meanwhile, is also expected to be an important month for Emporiki Bank. According to sources, news of a new share capital injection for Emporiki Bank will be announced by February by its basic shareholders, Credit Agricole. The cash call will amount to about 1.2 billion euros and will represent the latest boost to the bank, which its major shareholder hopes will be the last. Additionally in January, EFG Eurobank will complete the sale of its Polish subsidiary’s branch network in a move aimed at boosting its capital position. Poland is considered a dynamic developing market and under other circumstances EFG Eurobank’s management would not consider reducing its exposure in the eastern European market.