Greece’s Alpha, Piraeus Banks Start Sale to Boost Capital

Alpha Bank A.E. (ALPHA) has enough demand for all its stock as the Greek lender joined Piraeus Bank SA (TPEIR) in selling 3 billion euros ($4.2 billion) in shares to bolster capital, two people with knowledge of the matter said.

Investors that bid below 65 euro cents apiece for Alpha Bank shares may not receive stock, the people said, asking not to be identified as the details aren’t public. The sale closes for investors at 10 a.m. in London.

Piraeus Bank, the country’s second-largest lender, said in a statement yesterday it plans to raise 1.75 billion euros and Alpha Bank is targeting 1.2 billion euros from new shares.

The sales represent “a vote of confidence for the Greek banking system,” Maria Kanellopoulou, a financial analyst at Euroxx Securities SA, said in an interview. “Major progress has been achieved, especially for those two banks.”

Investors are returning to Greece as it makes a comeback from an international bailout that roiled world markets. Greek lenders need to boost their capital by 6.38 billion euros after six years of recession and the biggest sovereign-debt restructuring in history left them with swelling bad loans, the nation’s central bank said this month.

Both sales began after markets closed yesterday. Piraeus Bank shares fell 1.5 percent to close out to 2.02 euros, and Alpha Bank declined 5.2 percent to 70 euro cents in Athens yesterday, the most since Dec. 3.

Photographer: Kostas Tsironis/Bloomberg

Alpha Bank A.E. is Greece’s fourth-largest bank. Close

Alpha Bank A.E. is Greece’s fourth-largest bank.

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Photographer: Kostas Tsironis/Bloomberg

Alpha Bank A.E. is Greece’s fourth-largest bank.

Yields Decline

Alpha, Piraeus and National Bank of Greece SA, the nation’s largest lender, were able to attract sufficient funds from private investors in stock sales in June to enable them to avert complete nationalization.

Yields on 10-year Greek government benchmark bonds were unchanged at 6.72 percent, near a four-year low today in Athens. Borrowers are taking advantage of demand for riskier debt as central banks hold interest rates at record lows and as Standard & Poor’s says default rates will fall to 5.2 percent next year from 5.9 percent at the end of 2013.

Greek banks may need more capital than the Bank of Greece stress tests suggest, especially if they don’t “urgently and efficiently address” the high levels of non-performing loans, European and International Monetary Fund officials said on March 20 as they reached a preliminary agreement to unblock money under the Mediterranean nation’s bailout.

‘Quantum Leap’

Greek banks are tapping investors before a wave of fund raisings by European lenders including Italy’s Banco Popolare SC (BP) and Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena SpA. The European Central Bank review of the region’s top lenders, as it prepares to resume oversight later this year, is prompting banks to clean up their balance sheets, renewing confidence among investors. The Bloomberg Europe 500 Banks and Financial Services Index, which tracks 43 companies including Alpha and Piraeus, gained 18 percent in the past year, outpacing gains by the broader market.

Still, some investors question whether some banks’ valuations are justified by the outlook for earnings.

“The market has made a quantum leap of faith and has moved from fearfully monitoring asset quality, capital and funding on a quarterly basis to focus exclusively on ‘normalized’ 2016-2017 earnings,” said Inigo Lecubarri, who helps manage the Abaco Financials Fund in London. “We believe investors’ desire to rotate into underperforming assets such as European bank stocks is the force behind the rally, not fundamentals.”

JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Citigroup Inc. are managing the Alpha Bank capital increase, along with Bank of America Corp., according to a statement from the sale managers. Piraeus Bank said Credit Suisse Group AG, Deutsche Bank AG, Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Mediobanca SpA and UBS AG are among banks overseeing its sale.

To contact the reporters on this story: Ruth David in London at rdavid9@bloomberg.net; Nikos Chrysoloras in Athens at nchrysoloras@bloomberg.net; Elisa Martinuzzi in Milan at emartinuzzi@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jacqueline Simmons at jackiem@bloomberg.net Steve Bailey

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