BoC mulls loan-book swap [Cyprus Mail]Al Bawaba Ltd.
BANK of Cyprus (BoC) is looking into swapping part of its loan book in Greece with a Greek bank operating on the island as part of moves to strengthen its capital base, it said in a stock exchange filing yesterday.
Cypriot banks operating in Greece have been battered by the country's debt crisis and deep recession which have caused losses in the sovereign debt restructuring and a rise in non-performing loans.
As a result Cyprus sought emergency financial aid from its EU partners on June 25.
The filing from the island's biggest lender came in response to a newspaper report that it is in talks with Greek lender Alpha Bank on swapping part of its loan book with Alpha's loans in Cyprus.
"In the context of planning to strengthen its capital position and shield its balance sheet, the bank is looking into a number of options. One such option is exchanging ... assets and liabilities with one of the Greek banks active in Cyprus," BoC said in the filing.
"At this stage there is nothing specific to announce," it said, without naming any Greek bank.
Alpha Bank, which declined to comment, is one of Greece's three largest lenders which have offered to buy Credit Agricole's struggling Greek unit Emporiki Bank, put up for sale by the French lender to limit its exposure to Greece.
The report by daily newspaper Kathimerini said Alpha Bank's impaired loans in Cyprus were smaller than the BOC's non-performing credit in Greece and that the difference would be made up in some form including shares.
Greece's economy is expected to stay in recession for a fifth straight year in 2012, with gross domestic product seen contracting by more than 7.0 per cent.
BoC rattled domestic markets by unexpectedly seeking state financial support just prior to a regulatory deadline to bolster its core tier 1 capital in June.
A few days earlier the lender's board told shareholders it needed just 200 million to replenish its battered capital.
The capital requirements of the Popular Bank, was a key reason forcing Cyprus into requesting the international bailout.
Both banks suffered record 2011 losses as a result of a write-down in their portfolios of Greek sovereign debt, an impairment agreed by European leaders, including Cyprus' president, to make Greece's debt more sustainable.
The decision proved costly for the island, with the Popular Bank needing at least 1.8 billion from the state, while BoC has asked for 500 million.
BoC posted losses of 1.37 billion in its full-year 2011 results after the Greek sovereign debt write-down.