CYPRUS: AstroBank completes USB takeover, boosts business by 55%

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AstroBank, the Lebanese-controlled lender formerly known as Piraeus Bank Cyprus, has completed the takeover of the business and staff of the smaller USB Bank, boosting the bank’s portfolio by 55% to total assets of “more than €2 bln, gross loans of €1.2 bln, customer deposits of € 1.9 bln and equity at €160 mln.”

The agreement, announced Monday, is expected to be completed before the end of the year following the necessary approvals from the regulatory authorities and completion of other formalities.

An announcement said “the transaction will be financed from own resources and supported by a capital raise, primarily from AstroBank’s existing shareholders, currently at its final stages of completion.”

AstroBank emerged from the €40 mln takeover in July 2016 of Piraeus Bank’s local operations, with the Greek parent retaining a minority stake of 17.6%. It was acquired by a group of international investors led by the Lebanese banker and former Energy Minister Maurice Sehnaoui, who in turn has controlling stakes in USB Bank and Societe Generale Cyprus through parent company BLC Bank SAL.

According to Bloomberg, Maurice Nicolas Sehnaoui has been the General Manager of BLC Bank SAL since 2008. It is a Lebanese financial institution offering banking, insurance and asset management services and its subsidiaries include USB Bank PLC – Cyprus (95.61% share), BLC Finance SAL, and BLC Services SAL.

In April 2017, AstroBank unveiled its new name and brand identity at a special event in the presence of Finance Minister Harris Georgiades. It is chaired by Dr. Shadi A. Karam, a seasoned banker and businessman who has also served as Senior Economic Advisor to the former President of Lebanon, General Michel Sleiman and, subsequently, to Prime Minister Tammam Salam.

The 2016 sale of Piraeus Bank was part of the Greek bank’s efforts to deleverage its overseas assets. At the time, it employed 310 staff in 19 branches and boasted a healthy balance sheet – €600 mln in loans and 1 bln in deposits.