Piraeus shareholders back plan to keep bank private

ATHENS Tue Apr 23, 2013 6:54am EDT

ATHENS (Reuters) - Piraeus Bank (BOPr.AT), Greece's second-largest lender, got shareholders' approval on Tuesday for a 7.33 billion-euro ($9.55 billion) share issue, confident it will meet the required private participation in the sale to avoid full nationalization.

Shareholders approved the recapitalization plan to restore the bank's solvency after losses from sovereign debt writedowns and impaired loans.

The plan envisages raising up to 400 million euros from a private share placing and up to 6.94 billion from a rights issue. Piraeus already had clearance to raise up to 2 billion euros in contingent convertible bonds, known as CoCos.

Greece has agreed with its international lenders that at least 10 percent of new equity issues by its banks must be bought by the market for them to stay privately run.

The rest of the money will be pumped in by the state's Hellenic Financial Stability Fund (HFSF), so that without resorting to CoCos Piraeus needs to raise 733 million euros from private investors to avoid falling under the full control of the HFSF.

"We have already gathered 570 million euros and our goal is to also collect the remaining part to 733 million, so that we won't need to issue any contingent convertible bonds," the bank's chairman Michael Sallas told shareholders.

"We are very close to the 733 million mark, there is interest by Greek and foreign investors," he added. "My feeling is that we will make it."

Banks being recapitalized do not want to resort to CoCos to avoid having to pay an annual 7 percent interest on the convertible bonds.

Piraeus's management also got clearance for a share consolidation that will range from five-for-one to 20-for-one to reduce the number of new shares it will issue.

Piraeus has recently bought three smaller lenders in Greece, a move which helped it more than plug a 3 billion-euro negative equity position.

It bought the healthy part of state lender ATEbank, Societe Generale's (SOGN.PA) Greek unit Geniki and Millennium BCP's (BCP.LS) local operation.

Sallas said Piraeus has completed its acquisitions and would not be interested in any remaining small lenders in Greece as part of any further consolidation across the sector.

(Reporting by George Georgiopoulos; Editing by Greg Mahlich)

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