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If in doubt, blame the unions


It's pretty routine in Greece, where organized labour has a privileged status, to blame the unions for industrial hiccups. But in the case of the embarrassing breakdown of the merger between the country's largest state-owned bank, National Bank of Greece (NBG), and its biggest private-sector counterpart, Alpha Bank, the unions were, in the words of one local banker, "an excuse, not a cause".

Costopoulos (r) and National Bank's
Karatzas: not seeing eye to eye

The sticking point in the negotiations reportedly had very little to do with fears of job losses. Instead, says one analyst, the deal was torpedoed by internal politics at Alpha Bank. Senior managers there were dismayed to find that this was not the merger of equals they had expected. Fearful that their influence - and even their jobs - would be casualties of the merger, those outside the inner circle of Alpha's chairman, Yannis Costopoulos, became increasingly strident in their demands for parity within the new bank's executive committee.

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