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ATHENS (Reuters) – HSBC raised its price targets on shares of Greece’s four largest lenders after they posted strong performances in the first half, saying Eurobank and Piraeus Bank were its top picks.

“Greek banks surprised us with stronger loan growth, faster repricing of securities books and robust fee income in the second quarter,” HSBC said in a research report.

Greek bank shares, down 25% in the past three months despite a strong improvement in operating performance, remain unappreciated due to European Union-wide recession fears, it said.

From a valuation point of view, we think the most promising Q2 results came from Piraeus,” HSBC said.

Piraeus Bank’s strong core pre-provision income growth and good capital generation render its price-to-tangible book value ratio of 0.24 “extremely attractive”, the lowest among its EU peers, while the bank’s balance sheet cleanup is mostly done, it said.

Earlier this month Piraeus Bank reported lower net earnings in April to June compared to the first quarter on comparatively lower trading income, but raised its guidance for the full year as new loan disbursements topped targets.

HSBC raised the price target on the shares by 38% to 2.7 euros, reiterating a “buy” rating. It also raised its price target on shares of Eurobank to 1.65 euros from 1.45 previously, citing its “strong balance sheet and superior profitability.

Targets on Alpha Bank and National Bank were raised to 1.45 and 4.55 respectively from 1.25 and 4.15 previously.


(Reporting by George Georgiopoulos; Editing by Jan Harvey)

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