ATHENS A large majority of shareholders at Greek lender Eurobank EFGr.AT have accepted an all-share buyout offer from larger rival National Bank (NBG) (NBGr.AT), clearing the way for a merger to form the country's biggest lender.
National offered to buy Eurobank EFGr.AT in October, kicking off a wave of consolidation in Greece's banking industry to cope with fallout from the country's debt crisis and deep recession.
NBG said in a stock market filing on Monday that 84.35 percent of Eurobank's stockholders accepted its voluntary tender offer, which expired on Friday.
National, advised by Credit Suisse, had offered 58 new shares for every 100 shares of Eurobank. The merger will form Greece's biggest banking group in terms of loans, deposits and branch network.
The combined entity will have total assets of 174 billion euros, loans of 113 billion and deposits of 85 billion based on their financial statements at end-September 2012 along with a significant presence in Turkey, Romania and Serbia.
The merger is expected to produce cost savings of up to 630 million euros per year after the end of 2015. NBG executives have said that up to 25 percent of the combined network's branches could be restructured following the deal.
NBG also plans to cut up to 2,000 jobs, or about 15 percent of its workforce, to generate savings from its takeover of Eurobank.
"The key issue going forward will be implementation, uniting two big banks with different cultures and overlapping branch networks into one bigger entity," said analyst Maria Kanellopoulou at Euroxx Securities.
Soon after NBG's offer was launched, Eurobank's major shareholders representing 44 percent of its stock said they would back the deal.
Eurobank, advised by Barclays, Deutsche Bank and Goldman Sachs International, said last month that NBG's offer was fair from a financial point of view.
In similar moves, peers Alpha (ACBr.AT) and Piraeus (BOPr.AT) have also taken over smaller rivals to form bigger operations in the hope of regaining access to wholesale funding markets after they are recapitalized.
Alpha Bank bought Emporiki Bank from France's Credit Agricole (CAGR.PA), with Piraeus gobbling up the healthy part of state lender ATEbank and Societe Generale's (SOGN.PA) Greek subsidiary Geniki Bank.
French lenders SocGen and Credit Agricole, which had acquired Greek banks as part of an expansion drive, decided to exit after the country's debt crisis erupted, leading to a deep economic slump.
Piraeus is currently in talks to acquire Portuguese lender Millennium BCP's (BCP.LS) Greek unit.
(Reporting by George Georgiopoulos; Editing by David Cowell)