Sehnaoui: Vote to Cyprus economy

Maurice Sehnaoui, the major shareholder of Pireaus Bank, described on Thursday his investment in Piraeus Bank Cyprus as a vote of confidence in the Cypriot economy.

Sehnaoui, heading a delegation of the group of investors who participated in the transaction, which was completed last December, met with Finance Minister Harris Georgiades who assured him of the government`s political will to secure a safe, stable and attractive economic environment and to promote all offered investment opportunities in Cyprus.

At the end of Decembcer, the Cyprus Central Bank and the ECB approved a participation agreement of Holding M. Sehnaoui SAL (“HMS”) as the main investor, along with a number of other investors with stakes, into the share capital of Piraeus Bank Cyprus (PBC). HMS has acquired a direct stake in PBC, reducing the Piraeus Group`s participation in PBC to 17.7%

Describing the transaction as extremely important for Cyprus, Georgiades said in his remarks to the press that the investors have highlighted the prospects and opportunities presented by Cyprus.

He added that a reunification of Cyprus offers additional significant opportunities, adding that the investors have made it clear that investing in Cyprus, divided since the 1974 Turkish invasion, is not based and does not require a solution to the Cyprus problem.

“On my part I conveyed the government`s clear commitment to continue the effort and safeguard a stable, secure and attractive economic environment which would enable the utilisation of investment opportunities,” the Minister stressed.

On his part, Sehnaoui noted that he considers Cyprus and the Cypriots as family and stated that the investors and he personally “think that now there is big opportunity for investments in Cyprus, especially following the deep three-year financial crisis, which saw banks wound down and almost half of deposits over €100,000 in Bank of Cyprus being converted to equity to recapitalise the island`s largest lender.

“After the big crisis the way Cyprus survived is fantastic. If we look at Greece, we can see the difference. Cyprus survived and perhaps that made Cyprus stronger,” he said recalling that the Cypriot GDP grew by 3% in one of Europe`s highest growth rate.

He also pointed out the strength of the tourist sector and the continuation of the financial services sector, recalling that everybody believed in the beginning of the crisis that “everything would collapse.”

“Cyprus is the star of the Mediterranean sea and that is why we invest in it,” he added.

Asked if a possible merger of Piraeus Bank Cyprus with USB bank is under consideration, Sehnaoui said the two banks could collaborate.

Recalling that he is a minor stake holder in USB Bank, Sehnaoui said “perhaps they will collaborate, perhaps they will make competition, I don`t feel a conflict of interest at all, it is a minimum, there are two banks, they are not so big, the market is large enough and I think they will collaborate easily because I can be the link.”