Greece's Alpha Bank close to buying Citi's Greek retail ops: sources

ATHENS Thu Jun 12, 2014 2:16pm EDT

A woman makes her way past the logo of Alpha Bank in Athens March 26, 2014.   REUTERS/Yorgos Karahalis

A woman makes her way past the logo of Alpha Bank in Athens March 26, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Yorgos Karahalis

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ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece's fourth-biggest lender Alpha Bank (ACBr.AT) is close to clinching a deal to buy Citibank's (C.N) retail operations in Greece, two Greek banking sources told Reuters on Thursday.

Greece's debt crisis has prompted foreign banks, including France's Credit Agricole (CAGR.PA) and Societe Generale (SOGN.PA), to sell local units to Greek banks in recent years.

"We're close," said one banking source who spoke on condition of anonymity. "There are just some formalities left."

Greece's bank bailout fund, the HFSF, a majority owner of Alpha Bank with a 69.9 percent stake, has approved the deal, a second source told Reuters.

"We have given the green light," the source said.

Greece's top four banks control about 90 percent of its banking market after a wave of consolidation and the winding-down of smaller banks that were deemed not viable.

Citibank, which started shipping and corporate lending operations in Greece in 1964 and expanded into retail banking in the 1980s, has a network of some 21 branches across the country.

Alpha acquired Emporiki Bank from Credit Agricole in 2012.

(Reporting by George Georgiopoulos; Editing by Karolina Tagaris and David Evans)

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