* Alpha Bank, Piraeus shareholders approve share offerings
* The two banks raised a combined 2.95 bln euros
ATHENS, March 28 U.S. and British investors
bought the bulk of Alpha Bank's 1.2 billion euro
($1.65 billion) new share issue, it said on Friday, providing
further evidence that foreign investors are warming to Greece.
Alpha, Greece's fourth-largest lender, issued new shares to
buy back 940 million euros of preferred shares from the
government and cover a 262-million euro capital shortfall
revealed in a stress test by the central bank earlier this
"The 1.2 billion euros that was raised is an important vote
of confidence," the bank's Chief Financial Officer Vassilis
Psaltis told shareholders on Friday, adding that 42 percent was
placed with British investors and 45 percent with U.S. funds.
The country's second-largest lender Piraeus Bank
also completed a 1.75 billion euro ($2.40 billion) share
offering earlier this week.
"The response of international investors exceeded
expectations and signals confidence that the Greek economy will
soon enter a growth path," Piraeus's Chairman Michael Sallas
Piraeus will offer 10 percent of the share issue to local
investors next week at 1.70 euros a share.
The country's bank rescue fund HFSF welcomed the successful
completion of the share issues.
"The capital raised by private investors further strengthens
the capital adequacy of the banks, significantly contributing to
the stability of the financial system, and highlights the
dynamic return to international capital markets," the fund's CEO
Anastasia Sakellariou said.
Greece's bailed-out government is also readying to return to
bond markets after four years of exclusion.
Greek banks started to tap markets before an expected wave
of fund-raising by European peers, in a bid to boost their
capital position ahead of the European Central Bank's health
check by November, when it becomes their supervisor.
"Conditions were favourable to raise funds from high-quality
investors with a long-term outlook," Psaltis said.
HFSF, Alpha's biggest shareholder, will see its 82 percent
stake in the bank reduced to 70 percent as it did not take part
in the capital raising, which will boost the bank's Core Tier 1
capital adequacy ratio to 16.6 percent.
The new shares will start trading on April 4.
Proceeds from Piraeus's equity offering will plug a 425
million euro capital shortfall and pay back 750 million euros of
preferred shares owned by the state, bringing its Core Tier 1
capital ratio to 16.8 percent. The HFSF's stake in Piraeus will
fall to 67 percent from 81 percent.
($1 = 0.7278 Euros)
(Reporting by George Georgiopoulos and Lefteris Papadimas;
Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)