UPDATE 3-Credit Agricole faces $2.4 bln outlay to sell Emporiki
* Greece says Emporiki must be recapitalised before sale
* Cost would add pressure on French bank's capital-analyst
* Credit Agricole shares up 7.3 pct (Adds additional analyst comments, updates shares)
By George Georgiopoulos and Christian Plumb
ATHENS/PARIS, Aug 3 (Reuters) - France's third-largest bank Credit Agricole faces the prospect of shelling out more than 2 billion euros ($2.43 billion) to offload Greek subsidiary Emporiki Bank, raising fears that it may be obliged to raise new capital.
Greece's bank support fund has told possible buyers of Emporiki that it will approve a sale only if the struggling lender is fully funded and recapitalised before it is sold, a senior banking source said on Friday.
Credit Agricole has been trying to sell Emporiki to limit its 4.6 billion euro exposure to crisis-hit Greece, but the bailout fund wants to avoid having to pump in further capital after Emporiki is sold to a Greek lender, the source said.
"The Hellenic Financial Stability Fund (HFSF) has set four eligibility criteria for the sale to go through; mainly the need for Emporiki to be sold recapitalised and fully funded," the banking official, who declined to be named, told Reuters.
The sale has drawn the attention of Greece's three biggest banks. Eurobank and National Bank confirmed their interest this week but have yet to submit offers. Alpha Bank, meanwhile, said it has offered to buy all of Emporiki.
Kepler Capital Markets analyst Benoit Petrarque said that at least 2 billion euros would be needed to raise Emporiki's core Tier 1 capital ratio to about 10 percent, from roughly zero now. However, substantially more will be needed to protect the lender from future loan losses.
"There's a 2 billion euro gap on capital, but the big question mark is more on the level of conservatism they will put on the loan book," Petrarque said. "If you don't properly value the assets, your capital could be gone in a couple of months."
The HFSF is a major shareholder in all three Greek lenders eyeing Emporiki, as well as Greece's fourth-biggest bank Piraeus , after injecting 18 billion euros as part of the country's latest bailout.
Credit Agricole now looks to have no option but to recapitalise Emporiki if it wants to sever ties with a unit that has cost it 6 billion euros since its acquisition in 2006. But that, in turn, could put pressure on the French lender's own capital ratios, possibly forcing it to resort to a rights offering.
"Credit Agricole is not very well capitalised, so any more expense is adding pressure," said Exane BNP Paribas analyst Guillaume Tiberghien, adding that it was unclear whether the Bank of France, its main regulator, would allow the bank to inject billions of euros into Emporiki without requiring it to perform a capital boost of its own.
In the past, regulators have allowed the listed Credit Agricole group to include its well-capitalised regional banks in any accounting, staving off the need for a rights offering, Tiberghien noted.
Another London-based analyst, speaking on condition of anonymity, downplayed the likelihood of a capital increase, saying that Credit Agricole could easily handle the Emporiki recapitalisation because it would simply amount to converting into equity part of an existing 4.6 billion euro funding line.
The global bank with roots in rural France has suffered a 19 percent drop in its share price this year, though the shares climbed 7.3 percent on Friday afternoon, outperforming a 4.6 percent gain in the European sector.
"For the stock price, getting rid of Greece is a positive catalyst," Tiberghien said.
Greek banks are under pressure to consolidate to survive a brutal debt crisis that has left them reliant on their central bank for liquidity while fears of a Greek exit from the euro zone has triggered deposit outflows.
Analysts say that a sale of Emporiki to a Greek rival could kick-start a long-awaited mergers and acquisition wave in the battered sector, with state-controlled Hellenic Postbank expected to be among the next targets as the state considers privatisation.
The banks eyeing Emporiki have been told to submit binding bids Credit Agricole by August 8, two Greek banking sources told Reuters on Friday.
Credit Agricole declined to comment. Eurobank and National Bank were not immediately available for comment when contacted by Reuters. ($1 = 0.8224 euros)
(Additional reporting by Lefteris Papadimas in Athens; Editing by David Goodman)
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