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UPDATE 3-Trading in Attica Bank shares suspended, lender says operations continue

* New lending frozen by central bank

* Central bank also blocked lender’s new board

* Attica bank says operations continue smoothly

* Bank amends board, sees central bank lifting restrictions (Adds Attica Bank statement)

By Lefteris Papadimas and Angeliki Koutantou

ATHENS, Sept 16 (Reuters) - Trading was suspended on Friday in shares of small Greek lender Attica Bank, which has been struggling to plug a capital shortfall since last year.

An official at the Bank of Greece, which supervises small lenders including Attica, told Reuters the central bank froze new lending by the bank on Thursday until “serious structural problems and corporate governance issues are resolved”.

The official said the central bank also blocked the appointment of a new chief executive at Attica as well as other board members because they did not meet some of the criteria under EU regulations.

Greece’s four main lenders successfully concluded a 5.5-billion-euro ($6.1 billion) recapitalisation last year but are still grappling with problem loan portfolios.

Attica Bank, which has 79 branches and is majority-owned by the state, raised 90.96 percent of the 749 million euros it sought to fill its capital gap in December.

It has been trying to raise up to 70 million euros since then to meet its remaining capital requirements, but has faced reduced investor appetite.

Attica said later on Friday it had amended the composition of its board “in compliance with the principles of sound corporate governance” and it now expected Bank of Greece to lift the temporary restriction on the disbursement of new loans and credit facilities.

“The Bank, in consultation with the Bank of Greece, continues to fulfil all its obligations and to operate smoothly and without any disruption,” it said in a bourse filing.

The stock exchange said trading would be resumed once Attica “informed investors on current developments”.

Attica’s shares have lost 80 percent so far this year, underperforming the Athens bourse’s general index which has shed 11 percent. The news did not affect Greek bank shares which were trading 2 percent down on Friday, analysts said.

“Let’s see if those actions will stir investors appetite,” said analyst at Eurobank Equities Nick Koskoletos.

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