National Bank unveiled

The chairmen of Greece’s two largest banks, National and Alpha, Theodoros Karatzas and Yiannis Costopoulos, revealed yesterday at a joint press conference the name and logo of the new banking behemoth (by Greek standards), described the complicated merger procedures and also revealed the share swap ratio of nine Alpha shares for seven shares in the new bank. This is a very bold thing, said Costopoulos. We (meaning he and Karatzas) have been cooperating daily for 20 days and we are ready. What we couldn’t do apart, we can do together. We are ready to work to make this great Greek bank succeed, he added. The new National Bank will retain the Alpha logo. But this was the easy decision. The most difficult part will be merging two large organizations without creating an unwieldy organization. The first market reaction, upon hearing of the share swap ratio, was negative, at least as far as National’s shares were concerned. They plunged 9.8 percent before recovering somewhat to close 5.34 percent down at 28.36 euros. Alpha shares gained 0.75 percent. The new bank will be governed by a board of directors and an executive board. Karatzas assumes the title of chairman and will be the bank’s chief executive. Costopoulos becomes its governor. The banks will be legally integrated in the first half of 2002 but the merger will not be completed until 2005. Major issues involve redundancies and branch reorganization, even though employees at the two banks, especially National, demand no redundancies and no branch closures. Other issues at stake involve the banks’ disparate insurance status and, more subtly, which mind set will prevail. Will it be National’s past as a state-controlled bank or will it be Alpha’s private-enterprise style? For his part, Karatzas, who had envisaged such a merger at least five years ago, said that the terms nationalization and privatization are notions of the past. Two policemen on Mytilene will appear before a police disciplinary committee after an internal investigation found that they illegally arrested and assaulted an Albanian immigrant on the eastern Aegean island in March. Officers Panayiotis Fykias and Panayiotis Protoulis allegedly arrested Arian Hodi and beat him up at a Lesvos police station. Hodi was hospitalized for days as a result. He has since been deported for his involvement in a fight with local bar staff and patrons who, he claimed, discriminated against Albanians. Meanwhile, yesterday, Lesvos police announced that four villagers from Gera have been arrested for beating up and stabbing a group of Albanians outside a nightclub. Two Albanians were hospitalized with knife wounds.

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