National shares prove attractive to investors

The increased interest of institutional investors, especially from the United States, led the State yesterday to offer an additional 1 percent share in National Bank, selling in total 28,050,000 shares representing an 11 percent stake. The accelerated book-building procedure used yielded a mean price per share of 17.40 euros, a 3.8 percent discount from yesterday’s closing price of 18.10 euros. This is considered a successful sale given the size of the offer. The State got 488.07 million euros, which will go toward paying back Greece’s enormous public debt, as will all revenue from the sale of shares in public companies. About two thirds of the shares were sold to foreign institutional investors and the rest to domestic institutionals. The sale managers were Citigroup Global Market Ltd and Merrill Lynch International. The sale considerably dilutes the state’s direct holdings in National Bank, Greece’s largest. The direct holdings, with most of the shares held by state portfolio management company DEKA, is now 10 percent. However, since social security funds participated in the acquisition of shares, they have raised their stake from the previous 17.1 percent. Given that the votes of the funds are controlled by the government, the State remains the single most influential shareholder in the bank. Opposition MPs, including conservatives, yesterday criticized the sale of the stake as an unprincipled and hasty effort to find revenue.