Flash sale of bank shares a great success

The sale yesterday of the state’s last directly controlled stake in Greece’s largest bank was hailed as a major success, being twice oversubscribed. The public coffers will benefit to the tune of some 562 million euros from the lightning sale – which was only officially announced late on Wednesday – of the state’s 24,733,000 shares in National Bank of Greece (NBG). With its last, 7.46 percent stake in the bank gone, the state still retains indirect control of some 21.5 percent of NBG shares which are held by state social security funds and the Postal Savings Bank. Yesterday’s sale, held through a fast book-building procedure, attracted strong investor interest, mainly from abroad. Some 84 percent of the shares were bought by international institutional investors. Within four hours, the offer was two times oversubscribed. The sale price was set at 22.74 euros per share, which is just 2.8 percent lower than Wednesday’s stock market closing price – and 0.2 percent more than Tuesday’s. The placement was in London, with Citigroup, Deutsche Bank and Credit Suisse First Boston as lead managers. Alogoskoufis said the move was decided at the last minute to protect investors from speculation. But the PASOK main opposition party complained that the sale was just engineered «to fill in the holes this government has opened in the economy.» Bank unions also criticized the sale. Now, local private investors own some 29.5 percent of the bank’s share capital. International institutional investors hold a further 25 percent, followed by Greek institutional investors at 20.5 percent. Apart from the indirectly state-controlled shares, the remaining 3.5 percent is controlled by NBG subsidiaries. On Tuesday, NBG announced a 25.3 percent increase in its net, nine-month after-tax profits, on the back of strong retail lending growth. Group earnings after tax reached 338.7 million euros. A recent voluntary retirement program resulted in the bank shedding over 10 percent of its staff.