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BANKING

Greek banking: Clash of the titans

The takeover battle between Marfin and Piraeus pits two Greek banking heroes against each other. It also raises the question of domestic consolidation at a time when Greek banks are focused on expanding abroad. Peter Koh reports from Athens.

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IN THE ANCIENT Greek myth of the Titanomacy (battle of the Titans), the whole Earth shook as a younger generation of gods led by Zeus and Poseidon threw lightning bolts crafted by hundred-handed giants to overthrow their father Cronus, who had himself stolen the throne by castrating his father Uranus, with the help of his mother Gaia.

Only time will tell if the current battle for supremacy being waged in the Greek financial world between Marfin Financial Group and Piraeus Bank will gain mythological status. However, with both camps being led by banking heroes with an eye on their legendary status, this agon promises to be a memorable one.

In just eight years, Andreas Vgenopoulos has transformed Marfin Investment Services, the small brokerage he started in 1998, into a business worth nearly €7 billion through a series of acquisitions.

In 2001, Marfin Investment Services broke into the banking sector by acquiring Piraeus Prime Bank, a small investment subsidiary of Piraeus Bank that was renamed Marfin Bank.

Then, in 2003, Marfin Bank bought Hellenic Investment Bank, creating Marfin Financial Group.

In 2006, Vgenopoulos, a lawyer with connections to the Greek shipping business who also founded Greece’s largest law firm, Vgenopoulos and Partners, catapulted his bank into the next league by pulling off a three-way merger between Greek banks Marfin Bank and Egnatia Bank and Cypriot bank Cyprus Popular Bank.

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