ATHENS - The U.S. Commerce Secretary has backed a bid by an American-Dutch consortium to buy the insurance arm of Greece's National Bank, saying a deal could help U.S. investment flows to the troubled Mediterranean country, Reuters' George Georgiopoulos reported from Athens.
An offer for National Bank’s insurance business by U.S.-based Calamos Investments and Exin Partners, a Netherlands-based investor, is up against three Chinese groups looking to buy at least 75 percent of National Bank’s (NBGr.AT) insurance unit as part of a regulator-approved restructuring plan by Greece’s second-largest lender by assets to exit non-banking operations.
Citing a senior banker, Reuters says that U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross wrote a letter to Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras that called for a transparent sale. "It is a strong letter," he said.
"The Secretary is fully supportive of the Calamos-EXIN bid, saying it would be a good start towards improving U.S. investment flows to Greece," said the banker.
John Calamos Sr., Chicago money manager of Greek descent and Calamos’ founder, has said in the past that he sees “compelling opportunities” for investments in many Greek sectors despite a long-running economic crisis, as TNH has reported last summer.
Greece’s oldest insurer, which was founded in 1891, provides life and non-life insurance products, had a 16.6 percent share of the market last year and 2015 net profit of 98 million euros.
The National Herald has said last month that an offer for National Bank’s insurance business by Calamos and Exin will be hard to match, partly because of the cultural and commercial links they have with Greece, the investment duo’s chief executives said, according to Reuters.
John Koudounis, CEO of Chicago-based Calamos Investments, reckons a Greek-American background is a major advantage in taking on Chinese groups Fosun (0656.HK), Shanghai-based Gongbao and Wintime to buy National Insurance.