Credit Agricole to pick Alpha for final talks on Emporiki sale: source

ATHENS Sun Sep 30, 2012 12:28pm EDT

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ATHENS (Reuters) - France's Credit Agricole (CAGR.PA) is expected to pick Alpha Bank (ACBr.AT) as the preferred bidder for its ailing Greek unit Emporiki Bank, a banking source close to the talks told Reuters on Sunday.

"They picked Alpha as the preferred bidder," the source said, citing information from one of the other bidders in the sale. National Bank (NBGr.AT) and Eurobank EFGr.AT had also bid for Emporiki.

The French lender is looking to pull out of Greece after the country's banks were hammered by the sovereign debt crisis and rising bad debt due to the resulting economic slump.

Credit Agricole, France's third-largest bank, has already injected billions of euros into Emporiki and wants to cut its exposure.

The offers of the three Greek banks expire on Sunday.

Credit Agricole's chief executive said earlier this week that talks with the three suitors were at an advanced phase and that the purchase price could be a symbolic one euro, depending on the amount of capital Agricole would have to pump into Emporiki.

Greece's bank support fund, the Hellenic Financial Stability Fund (HFSF), has told Emporiki's potential buyers that it will give its green light only if the unit is recapitalized and fully funded before it is sold.

The HFSF is a major shareholder in all three Greek lenders eyeing Emporiki, which was acquired by Agricole in 2006.

(Reporting by George Georgiopoulos; editing by Patrick Graham)

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