Greece's NBG to open book on $3.5 bln share sale on May 6

Reuters

* Bookbuilding to start May 6, pricing on May 9

* Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley global coordinators

By George Georgiopoulos

ATHENS, May 2 (Reuters) - Greece's largest lender, National Bank (NBG), will launch the bookbuilding process for its 2.5 billion euro ($3.5 billion) equity offering on May 6 and announce the pricing of the new shares on May 9, an NBG official told Reuters on Friday.

NBG will be the fourth Greek lender to tap international markets to plug a capital hole, seizing a window of opportunity to raise funds as foreign investors warm to the debt-laden country's recovery prospects.

The bank has picked Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley as global coordinators for the share issue, which will be offered to foreign institutional investors.

Peers Alpha Bank, Piraeus and Eurobank tapped international markets and raised 5.81 billion euros between them in the past two months.

"There will be no public offering in Greece, the pricing of the shares will be announced on May 9 before the scheduled shareholders meeting on May 10," the official said, declining to be named.

NBG, with a current market value of 6.71 billion euros, is 84 percent owned by Greece's bank bailout fund, the Hellenic Financial Stability Fund (HFSF). It has already been given the go-ahead for the fundraising by its majority shareholder.

The bank needs to plug a 2.18 billion euro capital hole, a central bank stress test revealed in March.

NBG, with businesses in the Balkans and Turkey, had resolved not to resort to a cash call to fill the gap but focus instead on selling non-core assets. It changed tack after pressure by the central bank to follow the example of its peers.

NBG's equity offering will not include pre-emption rights for existing shareholders, including the HFSF, as was the case with the share offerings by its peers.

The shareholder meeting on May 10 will give formal approval for the offering. Proceeds will also help NBG pay back 1.35 billion euros worth of preferred shares held by the Greek state.

Last month the bank raised 750 million euros after placing a five-year senior bond with international investors. NBG managed to borrow funds at 4.5 percent, a lower yield than the Greek government.

(Reporting by George Georgiopoulos; Editing by Mark Potter)

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