Credit Agricole eyes Greek unit sale -FT

PARIS, July 1 Sun Jul 1, 2012 9:49pm IST

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PARIS, July 1 (Reuters) - French bank Credit Agricole is in talks to sell its Greek Emporiki Bank unit and has received interest from three local lenders, the Financial Times reported, in the latest sign French banks are drawing back amid ongoing instability on the euro zone.

French banks, the top foreign lenders to Greece with an estimated cross-border Greek exposure of $44 billion at end-December, have been cutting back their exposure since 2011 via sales of sovereign debt and writedowns of their holdings in Greece.

Citing two unidentified banking sources, the FT said on its website that National Bank of Greece, Alpha Bank and Eurobank EFG had indicated they were ready to make bids for Emporiki subject to getting approval from the Hellenic Financial Stability Fund.

The newspaper said the Paris-based lender had invited local banks to submit offers for a stake in its Greek unit in early June amid fears of a possible bank run in the embattled euro zone nation.

Credit Agricole, which has poured some 6 billion euros ($7.54 billion) into Emporiki since buying the bank in 2006.

The bank said in May that it had a team working to prepare for possible outcomes from a Greek exit from the euro zone even if it saw that as a less probable scenario.

Alpha Bank denied in a bourse filing on June 20 that it was in discussions with Credit Agricole's subsidiary Emporiki to acquire parts of its assets.

Credit Agricole could not immediately be reached for comment. (Reporting By John Irish; editing by Jason Neely)

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