National Bank of Greece Earnings Call Nuggets: Sectors Forecast, ECB Usage

On Friday, National Bank of Greece ADR (NYSE:NBG) reported its fourth quarter earnings and discussed the following topics in its earnings conference call. Take a look.

Sectors Forecast

Stefan Nedialkov – Citigroup: I had two questions. The first one is, when you take a more fundamental look, PSI aside, sovereign PSI, et cetera, et cetera, when you look at your loan book, what is the sector in Greece that you think standing today and looking three years from now which sector will be contributing strongly to growth from 2015 to 2016? Everybody is talking about growth returning a few years from now, I just want to concretize it a little more, being a leader in Greece, I hope you have some news on this? My second question, just as a reminder what are the minimum requirements for the Bank of Greece as they exit currently under Basel II and the accelerated ones, the September benchmark and the summer 2013 benchmark? We have been hearing a few different numbers, so I just want to clarify.

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Apostolos Tamvakakis – CEO: You are correct that there needs to be a refocus of the Greek economy to more tradable sectors, the most oblivious sector is tourism in the broad sense. We have lots of very small mom-and-pop type hotel business. It needs to be a more, larger groups, financial groups, there is a lots of land, we need to deregulate the use of land, but there is a great potential for capital to come in and to exploit the land resources of Greece, not just for the two months of August and July, which is where most of tourists come in these days, but for the eight months of the year that we have good weather. Business tourism is part of that, retirement homes is part of it, so that’s one sector with large potential. Greece has a trade (indiscernible) port for the landlocked countries to the north. There is another, we have ports which we haven’t developed. Agro business again, larger players can lead to better exploits. I can go on and on, but I think that we are here to talk about NBG, so I’ll stop here and we can have a bilateral chat if you want on the potential of growth of Greece going forward on some other time.

Leonidas Theoklitos – Deputy CEO: If I can add, I think, there are some others sectors which possibly will be of great interest not only for Greek investors but also for foreign ones. As you know, the energy sector is a sector which is going to attract a lot of attention. Water supply management, also waste management as well, and I’m sure that you’ll recognize that the insurance sector is going to change completely due to the havoc that is taking place in the pension system in the country. So, I think over and above what (indiscernible) these four sectors will continue – also a lot of opportunities for investment. Taking your second question, the recap that has already taken place had a backstop advance that was offered to the Greek banks, the four major banks this morning, serve the purpose of ensuring the continuing access of the banks to the Eurosystem, i.e., making sure that under no circumstance the banks’ capital ratios fell below 8%. The target will be, however, a 9% core equity as defined by EBA as of end of third quarter and this will go up to 10% in 2013, again under the same definition. I remind you that the difference between core equity as defined by Basel III and EBA is predominantly the inclusion in the latter of the state aid the banks in Europe have received. So that’s where we should be aiming that. Let may take this opportunity to walk you through the process again on how this threshold will be met. The banks have asked and have submitted detailed business plans, which have been scrutinized by the Bank of Greece and I would say the official sector at large. These business plans serve the purpose of producing a reliable estimate for a conservative and prudent estimate of pre-impairment earnings, which then are informed with the results of the BlackRock Diagnostic so that the Bank of Greece and the official sector has a detailed view of its banks’ ability to generate capital, which obviously factor in the initial position which you’ve heard this afternoon from all the banks, works out to a capital shortfall. This capital shortfall will be covered by effectively three ways; any further capital actions that the banks may wish to take or may be able to take; the private sector participation in upcoming capital raising; and failing or any shortfall, any (dimensional hold) by the Hellenic Financial Stability Fund which as you know will be amply funded through the second program to complete this objective. As far as NBG is concerned, what we said is that this is a bank that has suffered a lot out of the PSI, but thanks to pretty consistent underwriting standard policies and practices and a very generous and consistent provisioning policy over the last two years, it stands to get practically no further impact from its loan books, from the BlackRock Diagnostic, and it is well-known that it has a pretty strong pre-impairment capacity in a year of ultimate challenge, we’ll manage to clock €2 billion worth of pre-impairment income. So, that says a lot about our ability to shoulder and absorb the cycle, the asset cycle and to ensure that further years down the road the bank’s position will be fully restored and fully private.

Leonidas Theoklitos – Deputy CEO: From a timing point of view, we are expecting to have some more definitive numbers on the capital requirements within the coming I suppose 15 to 20 days at the maximum. So, we will know exactly within so how much money or further capital each bank is going to require.

ECB Usage

Heiner Luz – Goldman Sachs: I apologize if the question already has been asked. Quickly, firstly, on your ECB usage, can you split how of that is from the ELA? Secondly, looking at your overall setup, are you planning any additional either debt buybacks? I know you have already moved up one step at one stage of buying debt (indiscernible) Q1 or Q2, or any measures which you can probably already outline or give us some guidance to basically close the capital gaps?

Leonidas Theoklitos – Deputy CEO: We presently absorbed €24 billion from the ECB and approximately a little excess of €7 billion from the L.A.

Anthimos Thomopoulos – Deputy CEO: This effectively says that’s at the total exposure we have on the Eurosystem, we have no other non-regular operation or net operations. The point that Leo just demonstrated is that after the upcoming recap, that this bank is going to be free from the L.A., and we’re going to make the first up to normalcy by shifting all our ECB exposure to normal ordinary operations. I’m hoping that we’re going to see better days on deposit inflows and eventually GDP growth and monetary growth in this country. Gradually, we believe that by 2014, we should be able to reduce our overall ECB exposure down to 10% to 15% of our total assets. This is a cornerstone metric and objective under which we plan our business in the next few years. As we get further debt buybacks, I’m afraid that cannot – we are not at liberty to make announcement at this point in time and we will let you know as soon as we can take practical steps to that effect.