Banco Comercial Portugues SA (ELI:BCP) is cashing in on the sudden interest in Greek stocks, selling all of its shares in Piraeus Bank S.A. (OTCMKTS:BPIRY), according to a press release earlier today. This comes just six months after CorpBanca (ADR) (NYSE:BCA) acquired shares worth €400 million when it sold its Greek unit, Millennium BCP, to Piraeus. BCP said from the beginning that it would sell the shares as soon as it could find a reasonable offer, reports Patricia Kowsmann for the The Wall Street Journal, but it must be pleased about pulling in €494 million.
BCA’s stakes in Piraeus
CorpBanca (ADR) (NYSE:BCA) owned 4.5% of Piraeus Bank S.A. (OTCMKTS:BPIRY) and had warrants worth just over 20% if exercised, so someone could conceivably have just snatched up a quarter of one of Greek’s larger banks. As for who would be interested, “We think Piraeus and Alpha, two banks we have a position in, are now very well capitalised and poised to recover,” fund manager John Paulson said earlier this month. “They have good management and we think the Greek economy is improving, which should benefit the banking sector.”
For now all we know is that the stake was sold to institutional investors, but some funds have already been moving aggressively into Greece, so it wouldn’t be surprising if it turns out to be many of the same players involved in this deal.
BCA unloading Greek financial equities
It’s striking that CorpBanca (ADR) (NYSE:BCA) had absolutely no trouble unloading Greek financial equities, stocks that would have been seen as risky bordering on foolish a couple years ago. The EU sovereign debt problem hasn’t completely played itself out, but the crisis phase is over for now, and this is a clear sign of market confidence both in the Greek economy and in the ECB’s handling of sovereign debt.
“Piraeus Bank welcomes the broadening of its public shareholder base and the increase in its free float as a result of the Banco Comercial Portugues SA (ELI:BCP) transaction, which represents a key step in the development of the Bank’s position in the capital markets,” the company wrote in its press release. They also announced that Piraeus Securities SA brokered the deal and that Barclays PLC (NYSE:BCS) (LON:BARC) acted as a financial advisor.