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By George Georgiopoulos
ATHENS, Jan 18 (Reuters) - Greece’s troubled lender Hellenic Postbank will be split into “good” and “bad” parts, with the healthy business continuing as a stand-alone entity until a buyer is found, the finance ministry said on Friday.
A decision on Postbank’s future had been demanded by Greece’s international lenders, the euro zone and the International Monetary Fund, to unlock further bailout funds for the debt-laden country.
The move to wind down Postbank, which is 44 percent government-owned, comes after efforts to sell it failed, and is part of a wider restructuring in Greece’s banking sector to deal with the fallout of the nation’s debt crisis.
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.
The ministry said that Postbank’s sound assets and all deposits will be transferred to a new bank, called New Hellenic Postbank, which will be sold at some future date. The bad part will be liquidated.
It said the new bank got a capital injection by the Hellenic Financial Stability Fund (HFSF), a state bank support fund that authorities have set up to recapitalise viable banks and to decide the future of those deemed non-viable.
“The new bank is fully capitalised, has access to liquidity from the Eurosystem through the Bank of Greece and will continue operating normally. The HFSF is the sole shareholder of the new bank,” the ministry said.
The Bank of Greece, the country’s central bank, said the New Hellenic Postbank is financially sound with a capital adequacy ratio well above its regulatory threshold.
Stripping out the problematic part of Postbank requires authorities to pump in capital to cover the resulting funding gap - the difference between assets and liabilities.
The bigger the portfolio of assets to be transferred to the bad part of Postbank, the larger the funding gap that will need to be filled by the HFSF.
The finance ministry and the Bank of Greece did not provide details on the funding gap or on what will happen with Postbank’s staff of about 3,200.
Last week, a banker close to the procedure told Reuters the funding gap would be about 4 billion euros ($5.3 billion).
Efforts at finding a buyer for Postbank failed when three of the country’s biggest banks withdrew from the race last week, leaving authorities no choice but to split the bank in two.
Postbank’s shares have been suspended from trade since August. (Reporting by George Georgiopoulos; Editing by Dan Lalor and Mike Nesbit)