Hellenic says parliament put end to insecurity

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By Stelios Orphanides

Hellenic Bank said on Monday that Sunday’s vote at the parliament which paved the way for the completion of the deal with the Co-op puts an end to the insecurity of recent months, marked by massive deposit withdrawals by the customers of the government-owned lender.

With the completion of the deal, subject to shareholder and supervisor approval, “Hellenic Bank’s balance sheet will be considerably strengthened while the considerable reduction of the non-performing loans ratio and other synergies will lead to a reduction of the risk in the balance sheet and to a more robust banking entity,” Hellenic said in an emailed statement.

Lawmakers approved on Sunday the extension of government guarantees to Hellenic Bank to shield it from potential impairments resulting from the acquisition of Co-op assets, in accordance with the terms negotiated by the two banks.

In addition, the parliament passed bills designed to expedite the reduction of non-performing loans, a condition set by the European Commission’s competition watchdog.

Co-op customers withdrew €2bn in deposits in the first three months of the year on concerns about the bank’s capital adequacy after it made little progress in reducing its stock of non-performing loans. Depositors also continued to withdraw savings from co-operatives in recent weeks on fears the parliament could block the deal with Hellenic.

Hellenic’s market share in performing loans will more than triple to 22 per cent while its share in deposits will increase from 12 per cent to 30 per cent, Hellenic said. The non-performing loans share is expected to drop from currently 52 per cent to around 25 per cent with the coverage ratio remaining at 60 per cent. The net loans to deposits ratio is expected to be less than 50 per cent, allowing the bank to extend more loans.

With the completion of the deal, the second largest company acquisition after Bank of Cyprus was forced to acquire the operations of the Cyprus Popular Bank in 2013, “both the Hellenic Bank and Co-op customers will be part of a larger, healthier and dynamic organisation which will offer them a wide range of improved banking services,” Hellenic said.

“For the time, there will be no change for Co-op customers concerning their transactions,” Hellenic, the only major Cypriot lender which survived the 2013 banking crisis without resorting to a bailout or bail-in, said. “Hellenic Bank will inform them timely in the case of future changes.”

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