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Hourican: Bank of Cyprus reviewing restructuring options

26 March, 2014

Bank of Cyprus, Cyprus’ largest lender, is reviewing its restructuring plans, Chief Executive Officer John Hourican has told Reuters.

“We have appointed HSBC to help us look at our overall corporate finance agenda including the entire structure of how the group is organised”, Hourican told Reuters in an interview.

What I`d like, he added “is to re-open the entire option list for the bank - do we continue with the plan we currently have? Is there a possibility of a more formal good bank/bad bank? Is there another set of options we could approach in terms of accelerating our restructuring plan?".

The HSBC team is being lead by its head of European financial institutions group Tim Sykes, a former senior official at the UKFI which managed the UK`s banking stakes including its 82 percent share in Hourican`s former employer RBS. The HSBC review will take several weeks. HSBC confirmed its involvement but declined to comment further.

The original restructuring plan, which Hourican said was still its core ambition, focuses on actively managing non-performing loans, selling off non-core assets like its Ukrainian arm, and integrating Cyprus Popular Bank (Laiki), the island’s second largest lender which was wound down under the late March EU/IMF bailout.

So far, Hourican`s management team have stopped short of a full bad bank and instead split the bank internally into a “restructuring and recoveries division”, which is managed separately and is funded by about 10 billion euros of emergency liquidity assistance (ELA) from the Central Bank of Cyprus.

“At the end of the day, funding will be what determines whether you can separate out your good bank and your not so good bank”, Hourican said.

At another point in the interview Hourican explained that “(Emergency liquidity) ELA is only available for deposit taking institutions”. He added that “if you were to create an AMC (asset management company) you are not a deposit-taking institution ... What we have to do is try and find a private solution that doesn`t further burden the Cyprus state”.

Referring to investor interest he noted that “Pre-Christmas, Cyprus and the Bank of Cyprus was just a `too hard to look at` category of funding or investment for any external party”.

However, he pointed out that “post-Christmas the incoming (feedback) has been quite significant in terms of people saying, this is now becoming very interesting, as opposed to being too difficult”.

“I think a lot of possibilities and opportunities will open up over the coming few months on how we might go about tackling this problem”, Hourican said, referring to the bank`s reliance on emergency liquidity.

He said the bank was looking at lots of solutions including private finance solutions and issuing bonds.

Hourican had said in the beginning of March, that the bank’s management aims at “a strong albeit smaller safer bank”.

He was appointed as BoC CEO after the bank entered a resolution process while 47.5% of its deposits over €100,000 have been seized to recapitalise the bank, as part of a €10 billion bailout Cyprus received from the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the IMF.