* Credit Agricole says all options open
* Bank still hoping for no Greek exit
* Transfer part of bid to isolate 'non-Greek-law assets'
* Bank could opt to sever ties with Emporiki
(Adds additional comment, share background)
By George Georgiopoulos and Christian Plumb
ATHENS/PARIS, June 14 Greek lender Emporiki,
majority owned by French bank Credit Agricole, said on
Thursday it was to transfer shares in its Albanian, Bulgarian
and Romanian units to its parent, completing a process that
started in 2009.
The move was the latest sign Credit Agricole is moving to
minimize any impact from a Greek exit from the euro, which
analysts have estimated could force a roughly 5 billion euro
($6.3 billion) writedown because of its exposure to Emporiki.
"All the options are open for us but the fact is that the
scenario of Greece exiting the euro zone is not our favourite
scenario," a Credit Agricole spokeswoman said.
Emporiki officials declined to elaborate on a news release
announcing the move, which came days before a Greek election
which could decide whether the swooning southern European
economy will remain part of the euro zone.
"This agreement will also allow Emporiki to further
rationalise its corporate structure and reinforce its focused
efforts to effectively deal with the current circumstances and
challenges," the Greek group said in the statement.
Credit Agricole's options in the case of a Greek withdrawal
include simply severing its ties with Emporiki, as it did with
its Argentine unit in 2002. Shifting good assets within the
group can only help with that goal.
"It definitely shows they are preparing seriously for an
exit, if necessary," KBW analyst Jean-Pierre Lambert said.
Lambert said in a research note "an exit by Credit Agricole
from Emporiki would put a cap on potential losses, avoid it
being at the centre of a euro zone storm and free management to
focus on the core franchise".
Credit Agricole shares are down 29 percent this year, hit by
concern about Greece as well as concern over a potential
regulatory crackdown under newly elected President Francois
Another London-based analyst, who asked not to be named,
said the move was part of a wider trend of Credit Agricole
shifting "non-Greek law assets" out of Emporiki, including a
roughly $1.5 billion portfolio of shipping loans the lender was
trying to shift to its investment bank.
"They are essentially trying to isolate the genuinely Greek
part of Emporiki," the analyst said. "Obviously all options are
open depending on what happens at the weekend."
($1 = 0.7939 euro)
(Reporting by George Georgiopoulos and Christian Plumb; Editing
by Dan Lalor)