Credit Agricole (C. Agricole) is in talks to sell all or part of struggling Emporiki Bank as it continues its drive to resolve the Greek risk that has dogged it in recent months, a Greek lender and a source familiar with the matter said on Monday.
Greece’s biggest lender, National Bank, said in a bourse filing that it was in talks with the French bank over a “strategic alliance” regarding Emporiki. A Credit Agricole spokeswoman declined to comment.
Europe’s No. 4 bank by assets has been scrambling to scale back its 4.6 billion euro ($5.84 billion) exposure to Emporiki after concern that a Greek exit from the euro zone would prompt massive writedowns and force a capital increase.
“There were discussions between the managements of National and Credit Agricole regarding the potential for future strategic alliances, which are at an initial phase,” National said, adding that it would inform investors if the talks bore specific results.
National is the first lender to confirm it is in discussions with Credit Agricole over a possible takeover of Emporiki, partial or otherwise. Credit Agricole may decide to retain a minority stake in the Greek lender, which at the end of last year had 1.3 million customers and 22.3 billion euros in outstanding loans. Last week Alpha Bank denied a report that it was in talks to acquire Emporiki assets.
Credit Agricole shares jumped 8.4 per cent on Monday, reaching 3.76 euros at 1207 GMT, their biggest per centage rise since January. The shares are still down 14 per cent this year and touched a record low in early June.
The news of a potential sale is the latest in a series of positive Greece-related developments for the French bank in recent weeks. In early June sources said Emporiki had gained access to emergency liquidity funds provided by Greece’s central bank to prop up the country’s ailing lenders.
After in the month the bank said it was hiring Xavier Musca as executive vice-president in charge of international retail banking. Musca, who played a key role in the shadows during former French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s handing of the euro zone crisis, could already be making his mark with the Emporiki sale talks.