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Piraeus Bank in Talks to Buy Geniki From Societe Generale

Aug. 29 (Bloomberg) -- Piraeus Bank SA, the Greek lender that last month acquired Agricultural Bank of Greece SA, is in talks with Societe Generale SA to buy Geniki Bank SA, the French lender’s Greek unit.

The talks are at an “advanced stage,” Frederic Oudea, the chief executive officer of Paris-based Societe Generale, said in a Bloomberg Television interview today near Versailles, France, declining to elaborate.

The discussions are continuing and there is nothing further to announce at this point, according to a filing by Piraeus to the Athens bourse. Societe Generale, in a separate statement, said “no decision has been made by either party.”

Societe Generale and French competitor Credit Agricole SA are trying to sell their Greek subsidiaries as the nation, bailed out by the European Union and International Monetary Fund, struggles to rein in its deficit, halt a five-year economic slump and avoid exiting the euro currency.

Societe Generale declined 0.9 percent to 20.80 euros by 2:32 p.m. in Paris trading, trimming the gain this year to 21 percent. Piraeus rose 7.6 percent in Athens, leaving the stock down 4.3 percent in 2012 and 76 percent in the last 12 months. Geniki jumped 20 percent.

Capital Increase

Credit Agricole said yesterday it may be weeks away from the sale of its Athens-based Emporiki unit. The French bank, founded in 1894 as a lender to farmers, invested 2.2 billion euros ($2.8 billion) in 2006 to buy a majority stake in Emporiki, the least profitable of Greece’s top banks at the time. Since then, Emporiki has been unprofitable every year except 2007, with accumulated losses for Credit Agricole of about 5.7 billion euros.

Credit Agricole provided 2.3 billion euros in capital to Emporiki in July following a request from the Bank of Greece, CEO Jean-Paul Chifflet told journalists yesterday.

Greece is overhauling its banks after lenders sustained losses on their holdings of government bonds in the country’s debt swap, the biggest sovereign restructuring in history. The country obtained a 130 billion-euro bailout in March from the EU and IMF, which earmarked 50 billion euros for recapitalizing the banks.

National Bank of Greece SA, Eurobank Ergasias SA and Alpha Bank SA submitted binding offers for Emporiki, and Credit Agricole is still considering the offers, Chifflet said.

To contact the reporters on this story: Christos Ziotis in Athens at cziotis@bloomberg.net Francine Lacqua in London at flacqua@bloomberg.net Fabio Benedetti-Valentini in Paris at fabiobv@bloomberg.net;

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Frank Connelly at fconnelly@bloomberg.net;

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