articles | 15 November 2016

BoC seeks more long-term investors in London listing

Bank of Cyprus plans to list in London, only three years after depositors were forced to rescue it as part of a 2013 international bailout of the Mediterranean island.

The Cypriot bank is run by high-profile veterans of the European banking crisis, with former Royal Bank of Scotland executive John Hourican its chief executive and ex-Deutsche Bank CEO JosefAckermann, its chairman.

Irishman Hourican, who pushed through a recapitalisation of Bank of Cyprus, a shrinking of its bad loans and the sale of businesses it no longer saw as central to its plans, last year signed a two-year contract extension.

Cyprus‘s biggest commercial lender said the planned listing, which it announced on Tuesday, will help it win the support of more long-term private investors.

It is continuing a recovery following a ‘bail-in’ of unsecured deposits when Cyprus was gripped by financial turmoil during the euro zone crisis.

This was the first time in the currency bloc that uninsured deposits were used to recapitalize a bank instead of passing the burden on to European Union taxpayers.

Big-name investors in the 1 billion euro recapitalisation in July 2014 included U.S. billionaire Wilbur Ross and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

Their confidence has been rewarded and in August, Moody’s changed its rating on the Cypriot banking sector to positive from stable, saying it is set to return to modest profitability.

The bank‘s market capitalisation stands at €1.2 billion ($1.29 billion).

Bank of Cyprus returned to profit last year after shrinking abroad and now has 91% of its loans and 123 branches at home, with assets worth a combined €676 million still earmarked for disposal in Greece, Romania, Serbia and Russia.

However, it still has 4 branches in Britain and said on Tuesday it would pursue a focused UK growth strategy, targeting the professional buy-to-let property market and entrepreneurs.

It has one branch in Romania and one in the Channel Islands.

London’s lure

When Bank of Cyprus bailed-in depositors in 2013 and converted their savings into equity, the make-up of its board reflected how much overseas money had been held by the bank. Six of its 16 board directors were non-Cypriots, including a high-profile Russian executive.

The composition of the board changed a year later, after fresh private capital was injected through an equity issue.

If it succeeds with its planned London listing, Bank of Cyprus will join around 30 other non-British banks whose shares trade on the London Stock Exchange.

The bank said it will remain listed on the Cyprus Stock Exchange but would drop its Athens listing, since it has had no Greek presence after it was forced to sell its branches there under the terms of the Cyprus bailout.

It said it planned to become eligible for inclusion in the FTSE UK index series and plans to operate under a holding company based in Ireland, which has a common law legal system similar to that of Cyprus.

In a separate announcement, it posted a net profit of €62 million ($67 million) in the first nine months, compared to 73 million in the corresponding period of 2015.

The lender’s Cyprus-listed shares were down 0.75% by 1250 GMT and have fallen 28% since they resumed trading in December 2014, against a 13.5% drop in the STOXX Europe 600 Banks index.

Source: InCyprus

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