Co-op beleaguered by protesters rejecting NPL deal with Altamira

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By Stelios Orphanides

The Cyprus Cooperative Bank’s decision to enter an agreement with Spain’s Altamira on the management of its non-performing loans, roughly 60 per cent of its portfolio, triggered a protest on Wednesday outside its head office which attracted dozens of protestors.

“The co-op and the other banks need to help people to repay their loans with viable loan restructurings,” said Evgenia Moyseos, a spokesperson of the Movement Against Foreclosures in a telephone interview, hours after the protest gathering.

“Is Altamira going to do any good in the case of someone who’s crisis stricken and unemployed since 2010 by disposing of his home,” she asked.

The state-owned co-op, which the government bailed out with almost €1.7bn in taxpayer’s money, announced on July 17 the agreement with Altamira Asset Management SS, owned by Spain’s Santander Bank, the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and the New York-based Apollo Global Management. Under the terms of the agreement, the two parties will set up a new unit in which Altamira will have a 51 per cent stake and the co-op 49 per cent.

The Cyprus Cooperative Bank, as the former Cooperative Central Bank is currently known, will outsource to the new unit the management of its delinquent portfolio of €7.2bn and real property in its possession, currently worth €0.4bn.

Protesters entered the premises of the co-op and a delegation held a 30-minute meeting with the bank’s chief executive officer Nicholas Hadjiyiannis to whom they submitted a list with their positions, the Cyprus News Agency (CNA) reported.

Hadjiyiannis pledged to continue the dialogue with the Movement Against Foreclosures adding that the Cyprus Cooperative Bank realises “sensitivities in this area which is also of our concern”.

The demonstration also attracted populist politicians known for their opposition to foreclosures, such as Stavros Malas, the candidate of communist Akel in next year’s and the 2013 presidential elections, Kostis Efstathiou, a deputy of Edek, Anna Theologou, a member of the parliament in the Citizens’ Alliance faction and deputy George Perdikis, the leader of the Green party, according to CNA.

Other organisations such as the communist trade union PEO, Povek, the umbrella organisation representing self-employed and small businesses, Akel’s women’s division Pogo, and the communist youth, Edon also took part.
According to CNA, Hadjiyiannis said that he is confident that the co-op, which is currently working on a Cyprus Stock Exchange listing in an attempt to attract private equity with share issues, having exhausted every possibility of receiving state-aid, “with the plan we made, we can give solutions and manage this big problem”.

“We are part of the system and know too well what is going on and our aim is not to foreclose but (to offer) solutions,” he was cited as saying.

Malas, the Akel presidential candidate, said that following the 2013 banking crisis, in which depositors at Bank of Cyprus saw almost half of their uninsured deposits turned into equity and those at Cyprus Popular Bank lost all their deposits in excess of €100,000, some Cypriot banks have become intermediary companies.

“The state should intervene with a socially sensitive policy to support those in need,” he said according to CNA. “We have to protect the primary home and small and medium size enterprises within a context of healthy corporate governance, that takes into account social cohesion and helps these companies out of this difficult position”.

In a statement, the Movement Against Foreclosures said that it believes that Altamira’s partnership with the co-op has “discredited the latter in the eyes of the Cypriot people”.

The movement also asked the co-op to cancel and also publish the agreement with Altamira, and provide a public commitment that it will protect the primary home in the cases of borrowers who are recipients of the guaranteed minimum income and low pensions, long-term unemployed, single parents.

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About Author

Stelios Orphanides is a journalist at CyprusBusinessMail.com. To contact Stelios Orphanides: [email protected]

  • Barry White

    ” Bludgers of the World Unite !!!”

    • Neroli

      Has David and Johnathan changed the lyrics?

  • almostbroke

    So they want the taxpayers to pay even more as usual !!

  • Vladimir

    How can they be restructured? If Cypriot people cannot afford to pay – throw them way from the homes and sell them out at auction.
    And after this, Co-op wants to do an IPO? Very good start for road-show!)))))))

    • Bilbo Bawbag

      The people should at least be prepared to sit down with the banks that they owe money to and discuss ways of making some effort to pay off their loans. Remember, the money they borrowed was other Citizens money. The bank didn’t just conjure it up. (or maybe they did).
      Simply to protest about the possibility of having to speak with someone about the restructuring of their loans suggests to me that they borrowed the cash in the first place with no intentions of ever paying it back.
      Unfortunately, that is not how it works in the real world.

      • Neroli

        Yes but we’re not in the real world are we?

        • almostbroke

          No –
          ‘Toto! we are not in Kansas !!! THe merry old land of Oz !

    • alexander reutersward

      and give away 25% for free to existing customers

  • disqus_ZPlOdQqScB

    Where in he world do banks not foreclose on delinquent borrowers? No country can survive on giving out loans that are not repaid. Reality=borrow too much=foreclosure.

    • Neroli

      ‘If they don’t pay, take it away’

    • JS Gost

      Where Uncle George is not the bank manager.

  • costaskarseras

    As a result of the NATO-Turkish invasion, one third of Cyprus’ territory is still occupied including the then most productive parts and one of the jewels of the Mediterranean sea, the now “ghost” town of Varosha. When faced with the problems of the NATO-Turkish invasion, the Cypriots rolled up their sleeves and started developing their devastated economy. The Cypriots were so successful that when the country became a member of the EU, Cyprus was a net contributor to the EU budget until the capitalist economic crisis hit not only Cyprus but many countries and condemned millions of their people to poverty.

    Cyprus has a remarkable experience of unity and cooperation between workers and employers but this is not acceptable or has a place in the neoliberal brave new world. The working people who were not responsible for the bankers’ economic crisis are made to pay for it to get the banks out of trouble. These banks are now insist that homes are repossessed making families homeless and claim that they are acting in the best interest of the country. Many of these people are refugees and were made homeless after the NATO-Tukish invasion and the neoliberals want to make them homeless for a second time. The answer should be that not a single home should finish in the hands of local or foreign bankers. The homes are for people and not for the speculators.

    • Roger Thecabinboy

      The usual communist clap-trap . We had AKEL spending money they did not have, borrowing to fund a top heavy civil service with wages and benefits seldom achievable in the wealth producing private sector, but that was symptomatic of Cyprus as a whole . The coop banks were notorious for dodgy lending. Before the crash. Now chickens have come home to roost.

    • JS Gost

      Cyprus has a population of 1.2 million people. Where are the millions in poverty ? The delusion that anything but greed has created this situation is naive and uninformed. There are many who are prepared to live within their means, spend sensibly and save; are these people in the wrong ? they are certainly in the minority. By the way, how is North London ?

      • costaskarseras

        “The Cypriots were so successful that when the country became a member of the EU, Cyprus was a net contributor to the EU budget until the capitalist economic crisis hit NOT ONLY CYPRUS BUT MANY COUNTRIES AND CONDEMNED MILLIONS OF THEIR PEOPLE TO POVERTY.”

        • JS Gost

          Cyprus 101. Shout. Cyprus and Cypriots, like other countries bought they economic crisis on themselves. At a micro level each person has a choice, work hard and live within their means or spend money and live an unsustainable life. Cypriots did not put themselves billions in debt to buy food and basic shelter, they bought luxuries way beyond their means and also inflated the price of basic needs that truly did have an impact on the poor. Coupled with 25 years of broken government, votes fueled by the greed, Cyprus and others were always heading for disaster. Ultimately, if it is the ‘neoliberal’ world that is at fault, why are some countries doing quiet nicely ?

    • almostbroke

      How are all the neo liberals in North London ? Maybe you should consult with the Tof on how to run a country into the ground , he made a brilliant job of it . . As a great neo liberal Prime Minister of England once said ‘the problem with Socialism is , they soon run out of other people’s money !!!!

    • Neroli

      Maybe rubbish spouted by you! Majority of the people with loans are not out of work, and if they are they have to downsize. Many of these people are not refugees. Those houses you speak of belong to the bank not the people. The people of this country brought the country to its knees by spending what wasn’t theirs

  • konstabo

    alot of people took out loans in collusion with the partys involved and then never made a payment having met the above criterion of single parent , low income or unemployed , then the banks appropriated there customers money to cover themselves , i quess when your an athiest you dont see anithing wrong with that , yet its obvious they could care less…..

  • Costas Apacket

    Another bunch of deluded Cypriot idiots and chancers with their fingers in the reality dam.

    Pay up or get out you good for nothings.

  • JS Gost

    As I suggested in 2013, and shortly thereafter my account did not work, Cyprus cannot be responsible for its own economic management. For years the country, its government and its people have lived way beyond it’s means spending other peoples money with no intention of paying it back. Successive finance minster have ‘found’ yet more and more nonexistent money, with the help of the EU etc, to fuel the debts which is the economy and culture.Before the protection league pile in with stupid rants blaming everyone else, this problem exists in all countries, it it just that Cyprus excels when it comes to this failing. Until the banks are entirely foreign owned and credit is no longer given to Cyprus governments the problem will continue. Simple fact, a proportion of the existing debt mountain has to be paid off before the country can really move forwards. Additionally, people have to be in power who ensure this happens, a very difficult achievement with most of the electorate living under the delusion that things can continue as they are.

  • Mong Hlop

    the parasitical mentality of borrowing and not repaying goes on with these morons

  • CM follower

    You borrowed you repay. Can not repay approach lender and agree repayment plan. Leave the loan unpaid do not expect the rest of us to shoulder the burden.

    Banks always use credit collection agencies as a last resort.

  • MountainMan

    I have no sympathy whatsoever with persons who have NPLs. They drive around in their big flash cars, have holiday homes in the mountains or elsewhere, all on the backs of normal persons who honour their debts. To me all property tied to NPLs should be taken by the banks, sold, and anything that is left given back to the debtor. They may then instead of living in a couple of mansion, have enough money to buy a little house or apartment. Normal law-abiding members of the community may then be able to get a mortgage in order to buy themselves a home.