Union occupies bank head quarters in protest
- By Nagia Nikolaou
The new Greek coalition government has already announced the sale of public assets and infrastructure. They started with the ex-state-owned Agricultural Bank one month ago. The privatization plan also includes water utility companies, the state owned Gas Company, the Hellenic vehicle industry, the Hellenic Post, the Public Power Corporation, the Railway Company, as well as airports and ports all over Greece.
All Greek banks that held Greek governmental bonds suffered great losses from PSI, the Private Sector Involvement in Greek debt-restructuring (the write off of 53.5% of the face value of bonds held by the private sector) estimated at 28 billion Euros. But the previous government decided to refinance only the private banks with 50 billion Euros but not the state-owned ones, namely the Agricultural Bank and the Hellenic Post Bank (HPB). The 4 private banks that are going to be refinanced will return, at best 16 billion Euros (out of the 50 billion that are going to receive) to the Greek state. However, the state owned banks would return all the money that would receive for their refinancing. The Greek government has decided to refinance the Greek banks according to certain viability criteria. Although, no viability evaluation results have been published so far, the Greek Minister of Finance proclaimed the HPB as non-viable while at the same time he decided to refinance all the private sector banks without examining if they are truly viable or not.
According to the 2010 and 2011 European stress tests, the Hellenic Post Bank is the healthiest bank among all the Greek banks. The loan to deposit ratio is at 65% and HPB has the lowest NPL (non-performing loans) ratio among Greek banks and 11.3 bilion euros of deposits. The only problem of HPB is the losses from the PSI, while the private banks, need state refinancing not only due to losses caused by the PSI, but also due to NPLs. The political and economic scandal with HPB is that the Greek government denies its refinancing and has decided to sell it off, although the study of Alvarez & Marsal (April 2012) indicates that the best solution for the Greek state is direct refinancing and not selling. Additionally, the previous government had forced HPB to buy Greek bonds promising that the bank would be refinanced.
On August 30th, the Greek Minister of Finance Yannis Stournaras said that HPB is unviable. The next day, the Athens Stock Exchange suspended the trading of HPB stocks, following a nearly 30% plunge in HPB stock price. The Greek government is trying to devalue HPB in order to finally render it truly unviable. Now, the market value of the state owned 44% of HPB stocks has fallen to only 21 million euros, while it was around two (2) billion euros.
The HPB union is on strike and the bank’s headquarters are occupied by the workers demanding immediate refinancing and minimum guarantees for the smooth running of the bank. Today, the government still says that HPB is unviable continuing, thus, the bank’s market devaluation. The HPB union will seek to prosecute all those responsible for the bank’s devaluation and selling off.
The Hellenic Post Bank is a popular savings bank that has been a pioneer in savings for more than 100 years. This has been a century of offer to people and Greek society. All over Europe, savings banks are under state control. In Greece, the Government and the Troika have decided to sell it off.
- Nagia Nikolaou works for Hellenbic Post Bank and is a board member of the Athens Labour Centre (EKA)
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