ATHENS Greek lender Eurobank (EURBr.AT) is looking for a strategic partner to buy a stake in its fully-owned Romanian unit Bancpost as it tries to reduce its exposure to non-Greek assets, sources at the bank told Reuters on Friday.
Eurobank, which has operations in Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia and Cyprus, needs to deleverage its non-Greek assets by 2018 to 8.7 billion euros (7 billion pounds) from about 11.2 billion currently, based on commitments agreed with European competition authorities.
"We have appointed two advisors to search for a strategic partner to acquire a stake in Bancpost. This would help the bank reduce its holding in Romania and deliver on commitments to reduce its exposure abroad," one of the bankers said.
HSBC and Mediobanca are Eurobank's advisors.
Bancpost has total assets of 3.1 billion euros and a network of 148 branches, employing 2,255 people.
"We do not want to pull out of Romania entirely but cannot provide additional capital to the bank there for growth. If a strategic partner buys a stake in Bancpost, our exposure would be reduced in view of our commitments," the other banker said.
Eurobank, Greece's third-largest lender by assets and 2.4 percent owned by Greece's bank rescue fund HFSF, concluded the sale of its Ukrainian unit Universal Bank last year, in line with a restructuring plan agreed with the European Commission.
The value of 38 Greek merger and acquisition deals last year nearly tripled to 4.4 billion euros from 1.4 billion in 2015, with the biggest chunk - 75 percent - being sales of Greek banks' non-core assets, according to business consultancy PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Last year's deals included the sale of National Bank's (NBGr.AT) Turkish unit Finansbank to Qatar National Bank and of its investment arm NBGI to Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Asset Management.
Likewise, Piraeus Bank (BOPr.AT) sold ATE Insurance to Ergo International while Alpha Bank (ACBr.AT) divested its stake in the Athens Hilton hotel and sold its Bulgarian operations to Postbank, a unit of Eurobank.
(Reporting by George Georgiopoulos; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)