Greece's top banks pull out from race for Postbank: source

ATHENS Thu Jan 10, 2013 3:34pm EST

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ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece's top three lenders, National Bank (NBGr.AT), Eurobank EFGr.AT and Alpha (AGBr.AT), will not submit binding offers for troubled Hellenic Postbank (GPSr.AT), a banker close to the procedure said on Thursday.

Postbank, 44 percent government-owned and deemed not to be viable, is to be split into a "good" business and a "bad" part that will be liquidated as part of the sector's restructuring due to the nation's debt crisis.

"None of the banks will make binding offers tomorrow," the banker told Reuters, declining to be named. "This means that Postbank will be wound down and its healthy part will run as a stand-alone."

Athens has agreed with its international lenders to complete the resolution of Postbank in January.

The three lenders had expressed initial interest for Postbank, submitting non-binding offers to the Hellenic Financial Stability Fund, which will carry out their recapitalization.

Set up as a capital backstop for viable banks, the HFSF has a say on Postbank because it will become their major shareholder when the recapitalization is completed this year.

The board of the HFSF convened on Thursday to consider the offers and whether to give the green light for binding bids that banks would then submit to the central bank, which is running the Postbank resolution process, by Friday.

National Bank (NBG) and Eurobank had asked for the decision to be delayed as bidding for Postbank now would interfere with their ongoing merger. Both hold small stakes of about 5 percent in Postbank.

"NBG and Eurobank have other priorities now," the banker said.

NBG wanted to avoid the Postbank race complicating its tender offer to Eurobank shareholders, which was launched in October, before the bank expressed its interest in the state lender.

Extending the selection process for Postbank would allow time for NBG and Eurobank possibly to come up with a combined offer.

But international lenders have pressed for the resolution of overstaffed Postbank to meet the end-January deadline, the banker said.

Smaller rival Attica Bank (BOAr.AT) has also expressed interest in Postbank directly to the Bank of Greece.

Attica said on Thursday it plans to ask shareholders for approval to proceed with a rights offering and a convertible bond issue to raise up to 400 million euros to boost its capital base. It will hold a shareholders meeting on February 5.

The bank plans to raise 199 million through the rights offering, issuing new shares 19-for-one at 0.30 euros each.

(Reporting by George Georgiopoulos; Editing by Dan Grebler)

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