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Crédit Agricole received offers Wednesday evening from three Greek banks for selling its local lossmaking subsidiary Emporiki Bank in a signal of disengagement from the country.
National Bank of Greece, Alpha Bank and Eurobank were the banks submitting bids for Emporiki.
“Crédit Agricole simply wants to walk out, because it has lost too much money and is not apparently optimistic about the prospects of the banking sector and the country. The French bank would have divested earlier if possible,” said a top Greek banker in one of the banks submitting a bid for Emporiki Bank.
Crédit Agricole’s €23bn of Greek loans make the French lender the foreign bank with most at risk should Greece leave the euro. Crédit Agricole’s move comes after another major French company, Carrefour, said in June it was selling its Greek supermarket business to its local partner and leaving the country.
In another sign of waning confidence in the country’s prospects, a source close to the government said Crédit Agricole had indicated it wanted to keep an equity stake of less than 10 per cent in the new bank entity to be created from the merger of Emporiki with one of the potential bidders. “This way it does not have to consolidate Emporiki in its financial accounts,” he added.
Bankers said Crédit Agricole would have been happy if it held no equity stake at all in the new merged bank entity but speculated it must have been asked by the government to retain a small stake for face-saving purposes.
They estimated Crédit Agricole may lose €8bn to €10bn from its investment in Emporiki until the sale process is finalised. The French bank also funds Emporiki with more than €4.5bn, down from more than €11bn a year earlier.