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Greece's Eurobank to be nationalized

Xinhua | Updated: 2013-05-01 03:01

ATHENS - Greek lender Eurobank is the first systemic bank in Greece to be fully recapitalized and nationalized, as its shareholders approved on Tuesday a fully state-backed 5.8 billion euro ($7.55 billion) capital injection plan at the final stage of the recapitalization process of the country's banking system.

After failing to raise the required ten percent threshold of private capital to avoid falling under state control, under the terms of bailout deals struck with Greece's international lenders, Eurobank, one of the four systemic banks in the local banking market, will be fully recapitalized by the Hellenic Financial Stability Fund (HFSF).

"Our primary goal from now on is to return to private hands as soon as possible," Eurobank's Chairman Efthymios Christodoulou said on Tuesday. The HFSF is expected to appoint a new management shortly.

Under the recapitalization plan of Greece's banking system which aims to restore its liquidity and subsequently liquidity in the real economy to support efforts to overcome the economic crisis, any lenders falling under state control are to return to the private sector at a later stage.

Tuesday's deadline for lenders to secure the minimum capital boost from private investors to retain management control found the three other major banks -National Bank, Alpha Bank and Piraeus Bank- fulfilling the criteria set to remain privately-run, according to official statements made following general meetings of their shareholders.

A key factor in Eurobank's failure, according to analysts, is the freeze this spring on a merger plan with National Bank, the country's top lender, amidst objections from European Union and International Monetary Fund creditors who fear the repercussions of the collapse of a banking giant in case of a major crisis.

Greece's banking sector has been severely affected by the Greek sovereign debt crisis which erupted in late 2009. Banks have suffered losses from impaired loans and last year's "haircut" of the Greek debt load.

The four systemic banks are to receive a total of 27.5 billion euros in coming weeks under the 50 billion euro worth recapitalization scheme sealed last year, as part of the country's EU/IMF bailout aid program aiming to pull Greece out of the crisis back to growth.

Their capital needs have been set by the central Bank of Greece at 5.8 billion euros for Eurobank, 9.7 billion euros for the National Bank, 4.5 billion euros for Alpha Bank and 7.3 billion euros for Piraeus Bank. Most funds are to be covered by the HFSF in exchange for shares.

After Tuesday's benchmark, the next step in the recapitalization scheme is the submission of detailed plans for the capital increases by lenders to the Capital Market Commission and the launch of the process. The capital boost should be completed by July, according to the timetable, so that all banks should be fully recapitalized. (1 euro= 1.3 U.S. dollars)

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