Greece aims to sell stakes in Postbank and Proton Bank in July

Greece’s rescue fund Hellenic Financial Stability Fund (HFSF) intends to divest Hellenic Postbank SA (ATH:TT) and Proton Bank SA by the middle of July, Reuters said, citing an inspection review by the European Union (EU) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The disposal is part of the ongoing restructuring of Greece’s banking sector, which was launched following a severe six-year economic recession in the country. HFSF received an aid package of EUR50bn (USD64.2bn) from the EU and IMF to carry out the process, which includes the recapitalisation of Greece’s four big banks and the gradual closure of others.

According to the review, the Greek authorities are due to work out a strategy by mid-July to privatise HFSF-owned banks and consolidate the banking sector. HFSF is expected to have enough funds to perform stress tests of the sector by the end of this year.

Greece’s top banks National Bank of Greece SA (NYSE:NBG), EFG Eurobank Ergasias SA, Alpha Bank SA and Piraeus Bank SA are seen to complete their recapitalisation by 14 June. HFSF will provide most of the needed EUR27.5bn for the restoration of the lenders’ capital bases.

Greece’s accepts €652m bid for OPAP by investor Emma Delta

The Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (HRADF) has accepted an improved bid of EUR652m (USD858.6m) for a controlling stake in Hellenic Football Prognostics Organisation SA (OPAP) by Greek-Czech investment fund Emma Delta, the privatisation agency said in a statement.

HRADF had invited Emma Delta, the sole bidder for the 33% stake in the gambling operator plus management rights, to increase its initial offer of EUR622m, which was considered too low. The investment fund had until Wednesday to come up with an improved proposal.

Under the transaction, which is contingent on regulatory clearance, the Greek government will also be paid a EUR60m dividend for last year.

The privatisation of OPAP was completed successfully on Wednesday, Bloomberg quoted Greek finance minister Yannis Stournaras as saying.

The Emma Delta consortium consists of Greece’s Melissanidis Group, Czech private equity firm PPF Group NV and Italian gaming group Lottomatica Group SpA (BIT:LTO).

Regulatory hurdles delay merger of Greece’s Eurobank and National Bank of Greece

The planned merger of Eurobank Ergasias SA (ATH:EUROB) and its parent, National Bank of Greece SA (ATH:ETE), or NBG, has been postponed due to a regulatory authorities’ decision to recapitalise both banks separately, Eurobank said today.

Greece’s international creditors — the European Union (EU), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Central Bank — had previously objected to the combination over fears that it would create a dominant entity that would be difficult to recapitalise.

Eurobank said that its board would meet on 9 April to discuss a capital increase, which would be fully covered by Greece’s rescue fund, the Hellenic Financial Stability Fund (HFSF). The recapitalisation process is expected to be completed by the end of this month.

HFSF, the two banks’ future common shareholder, will take a final decision on the merger plan, Eurobank added.

NBG unveiled a voluntary all-stock bid to take over Eurobank in October 2012. The offer involved swapping shares of Eurobank for new shares in NBG at a ratio of 100 to 58, giving NBG’s current stockholders a stake of 75% in the enlarged bank, with the remainder to be held by Eurobank. The bid, which expired on 15 February, was accepted by 84.35% of Eurobank’s stockholders.

The combination was seen to create Greece’s largest lender with total assets of EUR174bn (USD226.5bn), EUR113bn of loans and deposits of EUR85bn, based on figures as at the end of September 2012.

French retailer Carrefour exits Greece via sale of JV stake

French retail giant Carrefour SA (EPA:CA) announced on Friday it had agreed to sell its entire interest in its Greek joint venture to the Marinopoulos group, thus entrusting the management of operations to its JV partner.

With the reorganisation, the French company enables the joint entity to meet the challenges of the prevailing economic environment in Greece, it said. The venture, called Carrefour Marinopoulos, will also get the chance to bolster its business model and consolidate its leading position in the country, Marinopoulos Brothers SA president Leonidas Marinopoulos said.

As a result of the stake sale, Carrefour will incur a charge of around EUR220m (USD277.9m) under discontinued activities. Following the transfer of shares, the former JV will act as exclusive franchisee of the French retailer in Greece, Cyprus, Bulgaria as well as in Albania and some other Balkan countries.

The transaction is awaiting antitrust clearance and is scheduled for completion in the coming weeks.

Carrefour is a distribution group which operates via four grocery store formats, more specifically hypermarkets, supermarkets, cash and carry and convenience stores. At present, the group has more than 9,500 stores, according to its website.

Bailout for Spain’s banks lifts Asian shares

Spain’s EUR100bn bailout package has lifted shares in Asia and resulted in a 1% gain for the euro against the US dollar and the Japanese yen.

Stock markets in Japan and Hong Kong were up by about 2% on Monday, with traders contributing the rise to the EUR100bn bailout for Spain’s banks, which was agreed on Saturday.

The bailout for Spain, which is targeted at its ailing banking sector suffering from bad loans to the country’s troubled property industry, carries fewer demands for austerity measures like those attached to the bailout of Greece.

Greece will hold a second elections on June 17, but last month the winners of the previous elections failed to form a government. Analysts agreed that the bailout for Spain will buy some time, but added that the crisis is far from over and the focus will shift again to Greece, which is expected to vote anti-austerity parties to power.

“All eyes are still on Greece’s upcoming elections but investors’ worries over the eurozone have eased in the short term,” Andy Du of Orient Futures Derivatives told the BBC.

International credit agencies have signaled the need to shore up Spain’s banks in the recent weeks and months, with Moody’s downgrading the ratings of 16 banks in May. The Spanish government also took control of banking major Bankia last month.

Depositors in Spain, like in Greece,have been pulling their funds from their bank accounts, but this weekend’s bailout is believed to have a calming affect and restore confidence.


Greek Tsakos Energy braves equity markets via book-runner Credit Suisse

Greek energy transportation group Tsakos Energy Navigation (NYSE:TNP) has decided to tap investors for fresh equity, despite continuing worries of the Greek economy and the European sovereign debt crisis, the New York-listed firm said.

The company has mandated Credit Suisse as the book-runner for the stock offering. Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS) has been hired as senior co-manager for the offering, while Clarkson Capital Markets, Dahlman Rose & Co and Brock Capital are co-managing the issue.

Tsakos Energy is issuing 10m ordinary shares at a price of USD6.50 (EUR4.95) each, 3.4% below the closing price of the company’s stock on 18 April. The underwriters also have the right to buy up to an additional 1.5m shares within 30 days of the closing of the offering. Affiliates of the company’s biggest shareholder, Tsakos Holdings Foundation, have agreed to buy 2m of the shares offered by Tsakos Energy.

The stock is being issued by means of a prospectus supplement and accompanying base prospectus pursuant to a shelf registration statement previously filed with and declared effective by the Securities and Exchange Commission. The closing of the sale is expected on 24 April, subject to the satisfaction of customary closing conditions.

Tsakos Energy expects gross proceeds of around USD65m from the offering. It intends to use the funds to finance growth initiatives, working capital and other general corporate purposes.