* NBG needs to plug 2.18 bln euro capital shortfall
* Central bank chief encourages prompts NBG to turn to
(Adds quote, background)
ATHENS, April 12 Greece's largest lender,
National Bank (NBG), is considering tapping
international markets with a share offering as part of plans to
plug a capital shortfall, a senior executive at the bank told
Reuters on Saturday.
NBG's peers Alpha Bank and Piraeus
successfully tapped markets last month, as foreign investors
begin to show appetite for battered Greek assets on signs that
the country is starting to recover from its debt crisis.
"All solutions are being reviewed in the present
circumstances, without excluding an equity offering," the banker
said, declining to be named.
Alpha and Piraeus raised a combined 2.95 billion euros last
month while the third-largest lender, Eurobank, is
set for a 2.86 billion euro offering later this month.
The Greek government returned to the bond market on Thursday
after a four-year exile, raising 3.0 billion euros with a
five-year bond that was snapped up by foreign investors.
A stress test by Greece's central bank last month indicated
that NBG, which has a current market value of 9.6 billion euros,
needs an extra 2.18 billion euros ($3.03 billion) of capital.
The group had said it would not resort to an equity issue
like its peers to plug the gap, but instead focus on selling
non-core assets. But on Friday the central bank urged a change
"If it (National) also decided to tap markets, it would meet
with great success," Bank of Greece Chief George Provopoulos
NBG, about 84 percent owned by Greece's HFSF bank rescue
fund, returned to profit last year, helped by its Turkish unit
Finansbank, lower funding costs and reduced
provisions for bad loans.
"We have a lot of ammunition in our arsenal as options to
cover the capital need," the banker said.
(Reporting by George Georgiopoulos; Editing by Kevin Liffey)