Greece starts bank sell-off

GREECE’S government took a step toward offloading its stakes in ATEbank and Hellenic Postbank yesterday when it named Deutsche Bank, HSBC and Lazard as advisers.

A statement said the three investment banks would “explore and assess the Greek state’s strategic options, evaluate its holdings in the banking sector and assess the consequences of such options”.

Athens needs to raise at least €1bn (£817m) each year between 2011 and 2013 as a condition of its European Union bailout in May. Its 77.3 per cent holding in troubled farm lender ATEbank and 33 per cent stake in healthier Hellenic Postbank are expected to be the first assets on the block after Piraeus Bank, Greece’s fourth-largest lender, offered €701m in cash for the shares.

State-owned energy, infrastructure and utilities companies are also expected to be handed over to the private sector over the next three years.

Juergen Michels, chief Eurozone economist at Citigroup, told City A.M.: “Everyone knows they’re under pressure to sell, so the worry is they may not get the right prices.”
Finance minister George Papaconstantinou said there was “light at the end of the tunnel after months of complete darkness”.