Alpha Bank has announced that it wants a new shareholders’ meeting on the merger with EFG Eurobank to be informed of the two groups’ costs of reducing Greece’s debt, but EFG says the merger has already been approved by shareholders and conditional only on the authorities’ approval.The two banks have returned with more detailed information, after initially giving the Athens stock exchange very brief releases, Mediafax reports.

Alpha Bank Group said in an initial statement to the stock exchange on Monday that it could not give a precise estimate for the timing and overall development of the merger of the two banks. Alpha Bank’s very brief announcement was followed by an equally brief response from EFG, which informed that it is consulting with Alpha Bank to complete the merger process as soon as possible. According to EFG Eurobank, there were no reasons to delay the completion of the merger.

Alpha Bank came back with a second statement explaining that the bank’s November general meeting of shareholders did not take into account the cost impact of the two banks’ participation in the programme to reduce the Greek state’s debts to private creditors. European leaders agreed in late October with representatives of the international banking sector that private investors holding Greek bonds would accept losses of 50%.

Details of the deal are still being discussed, and a final agreement could be announced this week.
The two banks’ managements confirmed at the time that they could not determine the impact of the Greek government’s debt relief commitment due to a lack of clarity on the terms of the implementation, the Alpha Bank release said.

“Alpha Bank intends to wait for the terms of the agreement to involve the private sector in the Greek debt reduction to be finalised and to convene a general meeting of shareholders to be informed and decide accordingly,” the second Alpha Bank statement said. The bank notes that the impact on both parties is expected to be disproportionate.

According to EFG Eurobank’s second press release, sent in response to Alpha Bank’s second announcement, the completion of the merger, which had already been approved by shareholders’ meetings in November, was conditional only on the approval of the relevant Greek authorities.

“All necessary approvals have been obtained and only the signing of the notarial deed, procedural formalities and formal approvals are still pending,” the EFG release said.

At the time of the general meetings, the parameters and basic framework for private sector participation in the Greek state debt relief, as decided at the EU summit on 26-27 October, were already known, according to the bank.
Even though the final impact was not known, the decisions of the shareholders’ general meetings did not set as a condition for the completion of the merger the conclusion of an agreement to reduce Greece’s debt or an impact assessment and nothing of this kind was communicated to the investor community. “All conditions and approvals of the merger have been met and no further decision by a corporate entity is required,” EFG notes.

Alpha Bank and EFG Eurobank, ranked second and third largest banks in Greece, agreed in August to merge and create the country’s largest bank to more easily deal with the debt crisis.

After Alpha Bank announced on Monday that it wanted to wait until the deal to reduce Greece’s debt was finalised, the Greek Finance Ministry said in a statement quoted by Athens News Agency and Reuters that there was no reason why the bond swap talks should affect the merger process between the two banks. “The management of the two banks has closely followed the negotiations between Greece and private creditors. Thus, they are aware of the PSI framework agreement (private sector participation in the Greek bailout programme – ed.), which is not new and has not been modified from the previously considered option,” the statement said.

EFG’s exposure to Greek government bonds is about twice that of Alpha Bank. EFG holds €6.9 billion in government bonds and Alpha Bank €3.8 billion, according to Reuters. “The market believes the terms of the deal could change in Alpha Bank’s favor. EFG Eurobank has a larger portfolio of Greek government bonds, so, according to losses from the net present value of government bonds, ed.), it will have a higher recapitalisation requirement,” a banking analyst said.

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