Greece to start sale of National Bank stake in coming weeks – sources

ATHENS (Reuters) – Greece’s bank bailout fund plans to start the process for selling a 20% stake in National Bank (NBG), the country’s second largest lender, in the coming weeks, two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters on Thursday.

After injecting about 50 billion euros ($53 billion) to prop up Greece’s largest banks during its decade-long economic crisis in return for shares, the state-controlled Hellenic Financial Stability Fund (HFSF) this year decided to start selling the shares as the lenders have been recovering.

HFSF last month sold a 1.4% stake in Eurobank back to the bank and invited investors to submit bids for a 9.4% stake in Alpha Bank, which UniCredit also wants to acquire.

HFSF currently holds a 40.4% stake in NBG, with a market value of 4.9 billion euros, and a 27% stake in Piraeus Bank.

“The ongoing process for the Alpha Bank’s stake (sale) will not delay the sale of National Bank’s shares, planned for the coming weeks,” one of the sources told Reuters.

A second source said there was strong interest from international investors for the stake in NBG.

Greece has been attracting significant investment in recent years as its economy has been recovering after three international bailouts that kept it afloat and ended in 2018.

S&P Global upgraded the country’s credit rating to investment grade last month.

Greek banks expect strong profits this year and hope to pay out dividends in 2024 for the first time since 2010, when the country’s debt crisis erupted.

(Reporting by Lefteris Papadimas Editing by Angeliki Koutantou and Mark Potter)