Greece has sold a 22-per cent stake in one of the leading national banks as the government aims to show that the previously debt-riddled economy is on the right footing.
The conservative government has insisted that the state should divest from its stake in Greek banks, after the marked improvement of the country’s credit rating following years in the doldrums.
The Greek state financial stability fund (HFSF) on Friday said it had sold 22 per cent of National Bank of Greece (NBG) for 1.07 billion euros ($1.16 billion).
HFSF chairman Andreas Verykios in a statement said the sale had drawn strong interest from top global investors, with some adding a Greek bank to their portfolio for the first time.
The HFSF was created during the Greek financial crisis (2010-2019) to support the country’s banks, which at the time were recapitalised with state funds.
Before the Friday sale, the Greek state held 40.39 per cent of NBG.
Most of the shares were acquired by major foreign funds including BlackRock, Fidelity, Wall Street Capital, Lazard, Norway’s Norges, ORIX of Japan, British fund RWC, Singapore fund GIC, according to Greek financial news media.
Italy’s UniCredit this week also acquired nine per cent of Greece’s Alpha Bank from the HFSF.
‘This is a vote of confidence in the Greek economy… the state should no longer hold onto the bank shares,’ deputy finance minister Harry Theoharis told parliament on Monday. ‘The state must disinvest now, because it signals to markets… that the banking system does not need supporting,’ he said.
Theoharis noted that the state had spent 31.4 billion euros to support the banks during the crisis, and on balance had gained 600 million euros from the procedure, before the share sales.
Last month, ratings agency S&P returned Greece’s credit rating to investment grade for the first time since 2010, citing the ‘significant progress’ it has made in tackling economic challenges.