OPINION

Mergers and the public interest

Mergers and buyouts in the Greek banking sector now look inevitable after the announcement yesterday that Piraeus Bank wants to take over the state’s shares in ATEbank and Hellenic Postbank. However, when state-controlled lenders are involved in these potential deals, negotiations have to be thorough and transparent. In the case of a healthy state-controlled bank buying out or merging with a private one, every effort has to be made to conduct thorough checks on the bank’s portfolio and work out its true value. If a state-controlled bank is being sold off, then all the parameters, beyond the price of its shares on the stock market, have to be taken into account. In the case of the Hellenic Postbank, for example, one must bear in mind its ample liquidity. If strict rules are not followed, the inevitable wave of mergers will result in either wiping out healthy state-controlled banks or in covering up the financial black holes at poorly managed private lenders. Neither scenario would be in the public’s best interest.