* HFSF disburses 18 bln euros of EFSF bonds
* NBG, Eurobank, Alpha, Piraeus to regain access to ECB
By Lefteris Papadimas and George Georgiopoulos
ATHENS, May 28 Greece handed 18 billion euros
($22.6 billion) to its four biggest banks on Monday, an official
said, allowing the stricken lenders to regain access to European
Central Bank funding.
The long-awaited injection - via bonds from the European
Financial Stability Facility rescue fund - will boost the nearly
depleted capital base of National Bank, Alpha
, Eurobank and Piraeus Bank.
"The funds have been disbursed," an official at the Hellenic
Financial Stability Facility, who declined to be named, told
Reuters. The HFSF was set up to funnel funds from Greece's
bailout programme to recapitalise its tottering banks.
The HFSF allocated 6.9 billion euros to National Bank, 1.9
billion to Alpha, 4.2 billion to Eurobank and 5 billion to
Piraeus. All four are scheduled to report first-quarter earnings
The news came as two government officials told Reuters that
near-bankrupt Greece could access 3 billion euros, left from its
first bailout programme, to cover basic state payments if
efforts to revive falling tax revenue fail.
"Our finance ministry efforts at this time are focused on
boosting revenue," one official told Reuters. But he added that
if those efforts failed they would "examine all alternatives,
including the 3 billion euros from the first bailout".
Greek state coffers are on track for a more than 10 percent
fall in revenue this month, a senior finance ministry official
said last week. Officials had warned the state could run out of
cash to pay pensions and salaries by end-June.
The 3 billion euros is held in an intermediate HFSF account.
Greece has been struggling through a fifth year of recession
and political turmoil, triggered by an inconclusive vote this
month that has fanned fears the country could be forced to leave
the euro zone.
The country's struggling banks have been among those hit
hardest by the uncertainty, with a rise in deposit outflows.
Huge writedowns from a landmark restructuring to cut
Greece's debt nearly erased the capital base of its biggest four
banks, which rely on the ECB and the Bank of Greece to meet
their liquidity needs, after savers began pulling their cash out
on fears that Greece could go bankrupt and out of the euro zone.
Last week the ECB stopped providing liquidity to some Greek
banks because their capital base was depleted.
With access to wholesale funding markets shut on sovereign
debt concerns, Greek banks have been borrowing from the ECB
against collateral, and from the Greek central bank's more
expensive emergency liquidity assistance (ELA) facility.
Bleeding deposits, the country's lenders have borrowed 73.4
billion euros from the ECB and 54 billion from the Bank of
Greece via the ELA as of end-January.
Together, the sums translate to about 77 percent of the
banking system's household and business deposits, which stood at
about 165 billion euros at the end of March.
Funded by the euro zone and the IMF, the HFSF is due to
inject up to 50 billion euros into the country's banks in return
for shares which it hopes to sell some day.
The funds are part of a second, 130-billion euro bailout
Greece agreed this year with its euro zone partners and the IMF
to stave off bankruptcy.
So far the HFSF has received 25 billion euros under the
scheme and the 18 billion euros it disbursed on Monday is its
largest payout to banks.
Key details of the recapitalisation plan for Greece's
battered banking sector, including the mix of new shares and
convertible bonds to be issued, and whether call options will be
included as incentives, remain unclear.
That framework is expected to be finalised after a
government is formed, following a June 17 election.