* NBG, Eurobank seek delay to give time for their takeover
* NBG, Eurobank both submitted offers for Postbank
* NBG’s share swap offer for Eurobank seen completed in Feb (Adds quotes, details, background)
By George Georgiopoulos
ATHENS, Jan 8 (Reuters) - Greece’s largest lender National Bank and takeover target Eurobank have asked authorities to delay picking a buyer for troubled state lender Hellenic Postbank until their transaction is complete, the banks said on Tuesday.
NBG, one of four bidders for Postbank, wants to avoid the Postbank race complicating NBG’s tender offer to Eurobank shareholders, which was launched in October before the bank expressed its interest in the state lender.
Eurobank, which has a stake in Postbank, has also submitted a non-binding offer for it. A spokeswoman for Eurobank said extending the selection process for Postbank suitors would give it time to come up with a combined offer with NBG post-takeover.
Postbank, which is 44 percent government owned and deemed non-viable, is to be split into a “good” business that will be sold or run as a stand-alone entity, and a “bad” part that will be liquidated as part of the sector’s restructuring to cope with the fallout of the debt crisis.
NBG deputy CEO Petros Christodoulou said it and Eurobank had both asked the central bank and the Hellenic Stability Fund, a capital backstop set up to recapitalise Greek banks, for an extension to their decision on Postbank “so that it doesn’t interfere with the takeover of Eurobank.”
“Our interest in Postbank remains,” Christodoulou said.
No officials from either institution were available to comment on whether they would delay their considerations. The Hellenic Financial Stability Fund is examining all of the non-binding offers submitted for Postbank, which also include submissions from Alpha Bank and Attica Bank.
Battered by rising bad debts and losses from government bond writedowns, Greek banks have been consolidating to cope with a deep recession and regain access to wholesale funding markets.
National Bank (NBG) has offered 58 new shares for every 100 shares of Eurobank. About 43.6 percent of Eurobank’s shareholder base has already accepted the offer, which got conditional approval by the country’s securities regulator on Monday.
NBG executives expect the share swap offer to last for five weeks and to be concluded in February. Following the swap, Eurobank will become a subsidiary of NBG and will be fully integrated by mid-year to form the country’s largest banking group.
Christodoulou told reporters that up to 25 percent of the combined network’s branches could be restructured following the deal.
Responding to a report in Kathimerini newspaper on Tuesday that banks may need more money than the sum earmarked by the central bank due to rising loan impairments, NBG’s chairman said the sum was adequate for the time being.
“Right now the 9.7 billion euros recap need is a sufficient sum. In the future it will depend on how the economy fares,” Chairman George Zanias said.
A senior official at the Hellenic Stability Fund also dismissed the report and said there was no sign at the moment that Greece’s four largest lenders will need more recapitalisation funds.
Greece and its international lenders have earmarked 50 billion euros from the country’s 130-billion-euro bailout to recapitalise the four systemically important banks and wind down others deemed not viable. (Reporting by George Georgiopoulos; Editing by Sophie Walker)