Can regional growth make Greek banks relevant again?
The country’s banks are in much better financial health than they have been for a very long time. The Greek government and private equity owners are seeking to offload their stakes, but these banks are still struggling to gain investors’ attention.
Investment-grade sovereign, resilient economy, clean balance sheets: for those who lived through the 2010s, this doesn’t sound much like Greek banking.
Athens’ financial community has recently been abuzz with talk of sovereign credit rating upgrades after its centre-right government beat left and far-left opponents in elections earlier this year. Greece today is one of Europe’s fastest growing economies, with the IMF projecting 2.6% GDP growth in 2023, compared with 0.8% in the eurozone at large and -0.3% in Germany.
In the financial sector, meanwhile, non-performing exposure ratios at the four big Greek banks have fallen to the single digits, down from as much as 50% five years ago. Eurobank and National Bank of Greece were barely above 5% at the end of June.
Growth, perhaps even international growth, is tentatively back on the agenda, if it comes at a relatively small cost in terms of capital and risk
Greek banks are all expected to resume dividend payments out of their 2023 earnings, with the largest pay-outs coming from Eurobank, followed by National Bank of Greece.