Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Crédit Agricole Girds Greek Unit for Greece Euro Exit

Wall Street Journal
June 13, 2012

Crédit Agricole SA is making contingency plans to abandon its Greek bank or merge it with a conglomerate of domestic banks in the event of Greece leaving the euro zone, according to a person with direct knowledge of the plans.

The admission offers the starkest evidence yet of international companies preparing for the worst in Greece, just days ahead of elections that could set it on a path to leave the currency union. It also underscores the lengths to which France's third-largest listed bank will potentially go to draw a line under its disastrous foray into Greece.

Crédit Agricole Chief Executive Jean-Paul Chifflet has said publicly he doesn't see a Greek exit as the most likely scenario. But the bank is pressing ahead with contingency planning focusing on two possible options, the person familiar with the matter said: consolidating its Emporiki Bank of Greece SA unit into a larger conglomerate of Greek banks, in which the French lender's stake would get diluted down to 10%, or simply walking away and letting Emporiki fail.

"Politically, if Greece were to exit the euro zone, Crédit Agricole would have no obligation to stay," said this person. The Paris-based lender is also considering plans to transfer some "good" assets from Emporiki to Crédit Agricole, the person said, without disclosing details.

A Crédit Agricole spokeswoman declined to comment on the bank's plans.


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