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Economy

Bank of Cyprus Turns Down Texas Fund’s Takeover Bid

NICOSIA – A takeover approach from the Dallas-based Lone Star Funds was rejected by the Bank of Cyprus, the attempt made as the bank’s shares had gone up 11 percent this year, nine years after confiscating more than half the funds of those holding accounts of more than 100,000 euros ($99,650.)

Bank of Cyprus has a market cap of 524.3 million euros ($522.46 million) according to Refinitiv and became a takeover target of the American equity fund as its worth grew, the takeover attempt first reported by Bloomberg news.

Lone Star, which invests in real estate, equity, credit and other financial assets globally, said it offered 1.51 euros ($1.50) per share for the bank.

In 201, the bank agreed to sell a portfolio of non-performing loans and some real estate properties to Allianz’s Pimco for around 385 million euros ($383.56) to shed lost propositions.

The Cyprus bank’s board said it turned down the offer because it undervalued the worth of the country’s largest lender, Lone Star, making three approaches. Under takeover rules, Lone Star has until 5 p.m. on Sept. 30 to announce whether it will make a formal offer.

There is no certainty a bid will be made after the three previous proposals, the first of which happened in early May at 1.25 euros per share, the report noted, adding that the bank’s worth was sitting at about $543 million.

“In addition to fundamentally undervaluing the company and its future prospects, the board believes that the proposal from Lone Star does not adequately address the complexities of completing a transaction to acquire Bank of Cyprus, given its strategic importance to Cyprus,” the lender said.

Goldman Sachs Group and HSBC Holdings are advising the Bank of Cyprus, according to a statement from the bank, the report said, Lone Star – led by billionaire owner John Grayken – invested in a number of banks.

Many private equity investors are shying away from banks, closing branches and shedding workers as customers can bank and even get mortgages on their cell phones without having to visit brick-and-mortar branches.

THEY TOOK THE MONEY AND RAN

But the sector is getting more attractive to risk takers as interest rates rise, although account holders don’t benefit, being paid a miniscule amount of interest for their deposits then lent out at higher rates.

As part of Cyprus’s 10 billion-euro ($9.96 billion) rescue package in 2013 from international lenders, The Bank of Cyprus absorbed its nearest competitor, Cyprus Popular Bank, known as Laiki, and seized 52.5 percent of major account holders deposits, taking much of the life savings of many and small businesses.

The bailout, which was known as a bail-in for the benefiting banks, was required because they became near insolvent over large holdings in Greek bonds devalued 74 percent and bad loans to Greek businesses which didn’t repay them.

President Nicos Anastasiades promised to hold accountable bankers who brought the institutions to near ruin and threatened to topple the economy but didn’t despite the damage done.

Depositors in two Cypriot banks lost billions when savings were confiscated to protect the island’s banking system in 2013, in a process known as a bail-in. The move was a condition sought by international creditors for a 10 billion euro ($11.62 billion) bailout to the east Mediterranean island.

The case was mounted by 51 people who lost funds and were clients of Laiki Bank, now defunct, and The Bank of Cyprus, whose clients had confiscated deposits converted to equity, exchanged for shares in the bank.

A European Union and Cypriot court dismissed lawsuits brought by aggrieved deposits and said their losses didn’t show substantial harm to them and that they failed to make the case that it did, protecting the banks further.

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