Pireaus in talks to buy Millennium BCP's Greek unit

ATHENS Wed Feb 6, 2013 11:31am EST

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ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece's second-largest lender by assets Piraeus Bank (BOPr.AT) is in talks to acquire Portuguese lender Millennium BCP's (BCP.LS) Greek unit, a senior executive at the Greek bank said on Wednesday.

"We are in exclusive talks with Millennium, negotiations are not yet concluded," the official, who declined to be named, told Reuters.

Greek banks are consolidating to cope with the country's debt crisis and a deep recession, which have caused big losses from government debt writedowns and loan impairments.

Millennium BCP (BCP.LS), Portugal's largest listed bank by assets, was looking to sell its loss-making Greek unit. In November last year, its chief executive disclosed that the bank had received several non-binding offers for the Greek operation.

Piraeus Bank has already taken over the healthy part of ATEbank and French lender Societe Generale's (SOGN.PA) Greek subsidiary Geniki.

A deal with Millennium BCP could be modeled after the one Piraeus clinched with Societe Generale, which effectively paid the Greek lender to get Geniki off its hands.

French banks SocGen and Credit Agricole (CAGR.PA), which had acquired Greek banks as part of an expansion drive, decided to exit the businesses after the country's debt crisis erupted leading to a deep economic slump.

Millennium's Greek unit began operations in 2000 under the name Novabank. It grew its network to 120 branches and currently employs 1,200 people.

(Reporting by George Georgiopoulos; Editing by Mike Nesbit)

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