Exclusive: RBS looking to sell $5 billion Greek shipping loan business

Fri Jul 10, 2015 4:22pm EDT
 
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By Jonathan Saul and George Georgiopoulos

LONDON/ATHENS (Reuters) - Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS.L: Quote) is winding down its Greek operation and is putting its $5 billion shipping loans portfolio up for sale as the group scales back non-core activities, finance sources familiar with the plans said on Friday.

The move, part of a wider strategy by RBS to shrink parts of its international business, comes as Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras makes a last ditch effort to secure a bailout from international creditors and prevent a financial meltdown in the country.

For decades, RBS has been a top lender to the global shipping industry and its Greek office - with an estimated 60 staff members - has played a pivotal role.

"We won’t be around for much more in Greece. RBS is slowly closing up operations here," one source at RBS said.

"The shipping business is up for sale. They have decided to sell it, if there is a buyer by December."

RBS is downsizing its corporate and institutional banking business in the Middle East, Africa, parts of Europe and Asia as the lender, majority owned by the British government, focuses on its home market.

British state-backed rival Lloyds Banking Group (LLOY.L: Quote) has also been exiting the ship finance sector and sold $500 million from its remaining ship finance portfolio in April last year, sources told Reuters. Pricing on that deal was in the region of 80 percent of the value of the loans, one of the sources said at the time.

Greek ship owners are among the country's wealthiest tycoons and the sector has been a major market for shipping banks despite tough conditions.   Continued...

 
A sign is displayed outside of a branch of The Royal Bank of Scotland in central London, Britain May 20, 2015. REUTERS/Neil Hall