Piraeus gets go-ahead to buy Millennium BCP's Greek unit-bankers

ATHENS, April 19 Fri Apr 19, 2013 1:31pm EDT

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ATHENS, April 19 (Reuters) - Greece's second-largest lender Piraeus Bank has got a green light from the country's bank rescue fund to acquire Portuguese bank Millennium BCP's Greek unit, two bankers close to the deal said on Friday.

Piraeus has been in talks to buy Millennium Bank-Greece as part of consolidation in the banking sector after the country's debt crisis and deep recession, which have caused big losses from government debt writedowns and loan impairments.

"The Hellenic Financial Stability Fund (HFSF) gave its green light. As part of the deal, BCP will take part in Piraeus's capital increase by around 400 million euros," one of the bankers told Reuters, declining to be named.

Piraeus and the bank rescue fund were not immediately available to comment.

The bank rescue fund has a say over the deal as it will become the largest shareholder of Greece's top four banks including Piraeus. The fund will inject most of the 27.5 billion euros the banks need to recapitalise and shore up their solvency ratios.

Millennium BCP, 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 has already taken over the healthy part of ATEbank, Societe Generale's Greek unit Geniki and the Greek branches of Cypriot lenders Bank of Cyprus, Cyprus Popular and Hellenic Bank.

The deal with Millennium BCP will be modelled 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, which had acquired Greek banks as part of an expansion drive, decided to exit the businesses after the country's debt crisis erupted.

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 Jane Merriman)

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