UPDATE 1-Greek crisis sends bad loans soaring at NBG
* Loan impairments at 15.5 pct of loan book in Q1
* NBG to sell minority stakes in Balkan holdings, Finansbank (Adds details, quotes)
By George Georgiopoulos
ATHENS, June 28 (Reuters) - Greece's biggest lender National Bank said bad loans had more than quadrupled from 2008 and unveiled plans to sell stakes in profitable foreign units as it battles a deepening recession in its home market.
Chief Executive Apostolos Tamvakakis, who is expected to formally resign at a board meeting later on Thursday in an expected management reshuffle, said the bank would focus on boosting capital, liquidity and managing risk in a difficult year for lenders.
Greece's banking system has been battered by the country's severe debt crisis and a recession now in its fifth year. With unemployment hitting record highs near 23 percent and businesses shuttering daily, banks have seen a surge in bad loans.
A landmark debt swap earlier this year to cut the country's debt forced banks to write down their sovereign bonds by about 75 percent, nearly wiping out their capital base.
"What happened in Greece was the perfect storm," Tamvakakis told shareholders at the bank's annual meeting. "And the banking system found itself right in the middle of it."
NBG's non-performing loans had more than quadrupled from 2008 to hit 15.5 percent of its loan book in the first quarter this year, he said. The ratio was up from 13 percent in December.
Delayed loan payments were close to 18 percent of loans in the Greek domestic market and were forcing banks to set aside high provisions, Tamvakakis said.
NBG, one of the four top Greek banks that were recapitalised last month after incurring big losses from the debt swap, will also look into selling non-strategic assets like its Astir hotel complex near Athens.
The group has operations in Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia and Turkey through Finansbank, whose profitability has helped it weather a tough market at home. NBG's Balkan operations include a network of 600 branches and a staff of 8,000.
The company did not provide any details on the size of the stake it would sell in Finansbank or a new holding company grouping its Balkan units. In the past, the bank has said it was considering selling 20-25 percent of Finansbank.
National Bank is expected to announce top management changes, with deputy CEO Alexandros Tourkolias taking over as CEO, a source at the bank told Reuters on Wednesday.
NBG Chairman Vassilis Rapanos, a veteran banker, resigned from his post earlier on Wednesday citing ill health after turning down the post of finance minister in Greece's new coalition on Monday.
Such changes at state-controlled companies often follow a change in government in Greece, which held national elections on June 17. The state exerts indirect influence on management at NBG through state pension funds that own stakes in the lender. (Writing by Karolina Tagaris, editing by Deepa Babington and David Cowell)
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