Exclusive: Greek banks face closures, bailout or not - sources

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Three More Years for Greece?


Some large Greek banks may have to be shut and taken over by stronger rivals as part of a restructuring of the sector that would follow any bailout of the country, European officials have told Reuters.

European leaders will gather on Sunday in a last-ditch attempt to salvage agreement withGreece after months of acrimonious negotiations that have taken the country to the brink of leaving the euro.

But regardless of whether or not fresh funds are now unlocked for the government, some Greek banks, damaged by political and economic havoc, may have to be closed and merged with stronger rivals, officials, who asked not to be named, told Reuters.

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Exclusive: Greek banks face closures, bailout or not - sources
Pro-Euro demonstrators shout slogans as they hold Greek and European Union flags in front of the Greek Parliament during a rally at Syntagma square in Athens, Thursday, July 9, 2015. Hopes that Greece can get a rescue deal that will prevent a catastrophic exit from the euro rose on Thursday, after key creditors said they were open to discussing how to ease the country's debt load, a long-time sticking point in their talks. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)
Supporters of the No vote dance at Syntagma square in Athens, Sunday, July 5, 2015. Greece faced an uncharted future as its interior ministry predicted Sunday that more than 60 percent of voters in a hastily called referendum had rejected creditors' demands for more austerity in exchange for rescue loans. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)
A supporter of the No vote waves a Greek flag in front of the parliament after the results of the referendum at Syntagma square in Athens, Sunday, July 5, 2015. Greeks overwhelmingly rejected creditors' demands for more austerity in return for rescue loans in a critical referendum Sunday, backing Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who insisted the vote would give him a stronger hand to reach a better deal. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
People gather in front of the White Tower, a city's landmark, in Thessaloniki on July 5, 2015, after early results showed those who rejected further austerity measures in a crucial bailout referendum were poised to win. Over 61 percent of Greek voters on July 5 rejected fresh austerity demands by the country's EU-IMF creditors in a historic referendum, official results from 50 percent of polling stations showed. AFP PHOTO /Sakis MitrolidisAFP PHOTO /Sakis Mitrolidis (Photo credit should read SAKIS MITROLIDIS/AFP/Getty Images)
People celebrate in Athens on July 5, 2015 after the first exit-polls of the Greek referendum. Over 60 percent of Greeks rejected further austerity dictated by the country's EU-IMF creditors in a referendum, results from 20 percent of polling stations showed. AFP PHOTO / LOUISA GOULIAMAKI (Photo credit should read LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Supporters of the No vote react after the first results of the referendum at Syntagma square in Athens, Sunday, July 5, 2015. Greece faced an uncharted future as its interior ministry predicted Sunday that more than 60 percent of voters in a hastily called referendum had rejected creditors' demands for more austerity in exchange for rescue loans. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)
Supporters of the No vote react after the first results of the referendum at Syntagma square in Athens, Sunday, July 5, 2015. Greece faced an uncharted future as its interior ministry predicted Sunday that more than 60 percent of voters in a hastily called referendum had rejected creditors' demands for more austerity in exchange for rescue loans. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)
A supporter of the No vote waves a Greek flag after the referendum's exit polls at Syntagma square in Athens, Sunday, July 5, 2015. Greece faced an uncharted future as officials counted the results of a referendum Sunday on whether to accept creditors' demands for more austerity in exchange for rescue loans, with three opinion polls showing a tight race with a narrow victory likely for the "no" side. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
Greece's Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras casts his vote at a polling station in Athens, Sunday, July 5, 2015. Greeks began voting early Sunday in a closely-watched, closely-contested referendum, which the government pits as a choice over whether to defy the country's creditors and push for better repayment terms or essentially accept their terms, but which the opposition and many of the creditors paint as a choice between staying in the euro or leaving it. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)
A supporter of the No vote waves a Greek flag after the first results of the referendum at Syntagma square in Athens, Sunday, July 5, 2015. Greece faced an uncharted future as its interior ministry predicted Sunday that more than 60 percent of voters in a hastily called referendum had rejected creditors' demands for more austerity in exchange for rescue loans. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
Supporters of the No vote react after the first results of the referendum at Syntagma square in Athens, Sunday, July 5, 2015. Greece faced an uncharted future as its interior ministry predicted Sunday that more than 60 percent of voters in a hastily called referendum had rejected creditors' demands for more austerity in exchange for rescue loans.(AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)
Protesters chant slogans in front of the Greek parliament in central Athens, on June 29, 2015. Some 17,000 people took to the streets of Athens and Thessalonique to say 'No' to the latest offer of a bailout deal, accusing Greece's international creditors of blackmail. AFP PHOTO / LOUISA GOULIAMAKI (Photo credit should read LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Carrying banners calling for a 'NO' vote in the forthcoming referendum on bailout conditions set by the country's creditors, protesters gather in front of the Greek parliament in Athens, on June 29, 2015. Some 17,000 people took to the streets of Athens and Thessalonique to say 'No' to the latest offer of a bailout deal Monday, accusing Greece's international creditors of blackmail. AFP PHOTO / LOUISA GOULIAMAKI (Photo credit should read LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images)
An anti-EU protester burns an EU flag in front of the European Comission offices in Athens on July 2, 2015, during a demonstration supporting the no vote for the upcoming referendum. Greece's government and international creditors raised the stakes on July 2 over a weekend referendum seen as decisive for the nearly insolvent EU country's political and financial future. While Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has urged Greeks to vote 'No' to the austerity measures demanded by international creditors, opposition parties including the centre-right New Democracy are campaigning for a 'Yes' vote in the referendum on July 5. AFP PHOTO / Louisa Gouliamaki (Photo credit should read LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Riot police march alongside anti-EU protesters in front of the European commision offices in Athens on July 2, 2015, during a demonstration supporting the no vote for the upcoming referendum. Greece's government and international creditors raised the stakes on July 2 over a weekend referendum seen as decisive for the nearly insolvent EU country's political and financial future. While Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has urged Greeks to vote 'No' to the austerity measures demanded by international creditors, opposition parties including the centre-right New Democracy are campaigning for a 'Yes' vote in the referendum on July 5. AFP PHOTO / Louisa Gouliamaki (Photo credit should read LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images)
ATHENS, GREECE - JUNE 29: Demonstrators during a rally in Athens, Greece, 29 June 2015. Greek voters will decide in a referendum next Sunday on whether their government should accept an economic reform package put forth by Greece's creditor. Greece has imposed capital controls with the banks being closed untill the referendum. (Photo by Milos Bicanski/Getty Images)
ATHENS, GREECE - JUNE 29: Demonstrators during a rally in Athens, Greece, 29 June 2015. Greek voters will decide in a referendum next Sunday on whether their government should accept an economic reform package put forth by Greece's creditor. Greece has imposed capital controls with the banks being closed untill the referendum. (Photo by Milos Bicanski/Getty Images)
People sing the greek national anthem under a giant greek flag, during a pro-European demonstration in front of the Greek parliament in Athens on June 22, 2015. Greece's international lenders raised hopes for a vital bailout agreement this week to save Athens from default and a possible euro exit, despite warning no deal was likely at an emergency summit. AFP PHOTO / LOUISA GOULIAMAKI (Photo credit should read LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images)
A protester bears on her wrist the ''NO'' slogan in reference to the forthcoming referendum on bailout conditions set by the country's creditors, during a demonstration in front of the Greek parliament in Athens on June 29, 2015. Greece shut its banks and the stock market and imposed capital controls after creditors at the weekend refused to extend the country's bailout past the June 30 deadline, prompting anxious citizens to empty ATMs. AFP PHOTO / ARIS MESSINIS (Photo credit should read ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images)
ATHENS, GREECE - JUNE 22: A man waves a EU flag as pro-Euro protesters take part in a rally in front of the Parliament on June 22. 2015 in Athens, Greece. Thousends of people attended the rally in support of Greece remaining in the European Union. The Eurozone's 19 national leaders held an emergency summit in Brussels to discuss the crisis and welcomed new proposals from the Greek government after talks today to haul Athens back from the brink of bankruptcy. (Photo by Milos Bicanski/Getty Images)
Protesters participate a demonstration in front of the Greek parliament in Athens on June 29, 2015. Greece shut its banks and the stock market and imposed capital controls after creditors at the weekend refused to extend the country's bailout past the June 30 deadline, prompting anxious citizens to empty ATMs. AFP PHOTO / ARIS MESSINIS (Photo credit should read ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images)
ATHENS, GREECE - JUNE 29: Demonstrators during a rally in Athens, Greece, 29 June 2015. Greek voters will decide in a referendum next Sunday on whether their government should accept an economic reform package put forth by Greece's creditor. Greece has imposed capital controls with the banks being closed untill the referendum. (Photo by Milos Bicanski/Getty Images)
Protesters demonstrate during a pro-European demonstration in front of the Greek parliament in Athens on June 22, 2015. Greece's international lenders raised hopes for a vital bailout agreement this week to save Athens from default and a possible euro exit, despite warning no deal was likely at an emergency summit on Monday. AFP PHOTO / ARIS MESSINIS (Photo credit should read ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images)
Protesters demonstrate during a pro-European demonstration in front of the Greek parliament in Athens on June 22, 2015. Greece's international lenders raised hopes for a vital bailout agreement this week to save Athens from default and a possible euro exit, despite warning no deal was likely at an emergency summit on Monday. AFP PHOTO / ARIS MESSINIS (Photo credit should read ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images)
ATHENS, GREECE - JUNE 29: Demonstrators during a rally in Athens, Greece, 29 June 2015. Greek voters will decide in a referendum next Sunday on whether their government should accept an economic reform package put forth by Greece's creditor. Greece has imposed capital controls with the banks being closed untill the referendum. (Photo by Milos Bicanski/Getty Images)
Leftist youth hold a placard reading 'No more recession, out of the eurozone' during a demonstration in Athens calling for Greece's exit from the eurozone on June 28, 2015. Greece weighed drastic banking restrictions to stave off a financial collapse as anxious Greeks emptied cash machines amid fears that banks will be closed this week. AFP PHOTO / LOUISA GOULIAMAKI (Photo credit should read LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Foreign anti-EU activists protest in front of the Greek parliament in Athens, during a demonstration calling for 'NO' at referendum and for Greece's exit from the eurozone on June 28, 2015. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras stunned Europe late Friday with a surprise call for a July 5 referendum on the latest cash-for-reforms package and advised voters against backing a deal that he said spelled further 'humiliation'..AFP PHOTO / LOUISA GOULIAMAKI (Photo credit should read LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images)
ATHENS, GREECE - JUNE 22: Pro-Euro protesters take part in a rally in front of the Parliament on June 22. 2015 in Athens, Greece. Thousends of people attended the rally in support of Greece remaining in the European Union. The Eurozone's 19 national leaders held an emergency summit in Brussels to discuss the crisis and welcomed new proposals from the Greek government after talks today to haul Athens back from the brink of bankruptcy. (Photo by Milos Bicanski/Getty Images)
Protesters walk over stickers reading 'Better drachma than submission' during a demonstration calling for an exit from the eurozone and a 'No' vote in the upcoming referendum in Athens on June 28, 2015. Greece weighed drastic banking restrictions to stave off a financial collapse as anxious Greeks emptied cash machines amid fears that banks will be closed this week. AFP PHOTO / LOUISA GOULIAMAKI (Photo credit should read LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images)
ATHENS, GREECE - JUNE 18: Pro-European Union protesters take part in a rally in front of the parliament on June 18, 2015 in Athens, Greece. Thousends people attended the rally in support of Greece remaining in the EU. About three-quarters of Greeks support keeping the EU's common currency, according to recent polls. Greece and creditors failed to reach an agreement Thursday in troubled bailout talks, with a June 30 deadline looming. .(Photo by Milos Bicanski/Getty Images)
Protesters participate in a demonstration calling for a 'No' vote in the forthcoming referendum on bailout conditions set by the country's creditors, in front of the Greek parliament in Athens on June 29, 2015. Greece shut its banks and the stock market and imposed capital controls after creditors at the weekend refused to extend the country's bailout past the June 30 deadline, prompting anxious citizens to empty ATM's. AFP PHOTO / ARIS MESSINIS (Photo credit should read ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images)
A woman is seen through a banner during a demonstration to protest against EU austerity policies and in support of the Greek government in Thessaloniki on 17 June, 2015. All eyes are on a meeting of the 19 eurozone countries to take place on June 18 in Luxembourg, but several officials including Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said they were not expecting a breakthrough there either. AFP PHOTO /Sakis Mitrolidis (Photo credit should read SAKIS MITROLIDIS/AFP/Getty Images)
A man holds a placard with a Greek flag during a demonstartion to protest against EU austerity policies and in order to support the Greek government in Thessaloniki on 17 June, 2015. All eyes are on a meeting of the 19 eurozone countries to take place on June 18 in Luxembourg, but several officials including Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said they were not expecting a breakthrough there either. AFP PHOTO /Sakis Mitrolidis (Photo credit should read SAKIS MITROLIDIS/AFP/Getty Images)
Communist-affiliated protesters throw leaflets from atop the occupied Finance Ministry in central Athens during their rally against EU-IMF loan deal on June 11, 2015. The Greek government said it would 'intensify' efforts to resolve differences with its EU-IMF creditors to reach a deal that would give the country desperately needed bailout funds. AFP PHOTO / LOUISA GOULIAMAKI (Photo credit should read LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Members of left wing parties shout slogans behind a burning European Union flag during an anti-EU protest in the northern Greek port city of Thessaloniki, Sunday, June 28, 2015. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras says the Bank of Greece has recommended that banks remain closed and restrictions be imposed on transactions, after the European Central Bank didn't increase the amount of emergency liquidity the lenders can access from the central bank. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos)
A protestor holds a banner reading in Greek "Stop to new and old bailouts" during an anti bailout protest in Syntagma square in central Athens, Thursday, June 25, 2015. EU leaders met for an EU summit to discuss, among other issues, migration and the Greek bailout. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)
Pensioners chant slogans during an anti-austerity protest in Athens, Tuesday, June 23, 2015. Greece's government defended Tuesday the billions worth of "harsh" new budget savings it has offered in talks with creditors, as some of the governing party's own lawmakers spoke out against them. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)
A Greek pensioner from the island of Crete stands in front of a police vehicle during an anti-austerity protest organized by pensioners' unions in Athens, Tuesday, June 23, 2015. Greece's government defended Tuesday the billions worth of "harsh" new budget savings it has offered in talks with creditors, as some of the governing party's own lawmakers spoke out against them. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)
Silhouettes of supporters of a NO vote in the upcoming referendum, are thrown on a "NO" banner during a rally at Syntagma square in Athens Monday, June 29, 2015. Anxious Greek pensioners swarmed closed bank branches and long lines snaked at ATMs as Greeks endured the first day of serious controls on their daily economic lives ahead of a July 5 referendum that could determine whether the country has to ditch the euro currency and return to the drachma. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)
A supporter of a NO vote in the upcoming referendum, waves a Greek flag in front of the parliament during a rally at Syntagma square in Athens Monday, June 29, 2015. Anxious Greek pensioners swarmed closed bank branches and long lines snaked at ATMs as Greeks endured the first day of serious controls on their daily economic lives ahead of a July 5 referendum that could determine whether the country has to ditch the euro currency and return to the drachma. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)
Supporters of the NO vote in the upcoming referendum, gather during a rally at Syntagma square in Athens on Monday, June 29, 2015. Anxious Greek pensioners swarmed closed bank branches and long lines snaked outside ATMs as Greeks endured the first day of serious controls on their daily economic lives ahead of a July 5 referendum that could determine whether the country has to ditch the euro currency and return to the drachma. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)
Tom McGrath, a vendor who sells miniatures, originally from Belfast, Northern Ireland, who has lived in Greece for the last 20 years, sits next to a satirical sign written by him, in the Plaka tourist district of Athens, Friday, June 26, 2015. With Greece facing a potential debt default June 30, European leaders have demanded finance ministers from eurozone countries reach an agreement on Saturday that will allow creditors to unblock the remaining 7.2 billion euros in Greece's international bailout program. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
A pensioner holds a flag bearing the picture of Argentinean revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara during an an anti-austerity protest in Athens, Tuesday, June 23, 2015. Greece's government defended Tuesday the billions worth of "harsh" new budget savings it has offered in talks with creditors, as some of the governing party's own lawmakers spoke out against them. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)
ATHENS, GREECE - JUNE 29: Demonstrators during a rally in Athens, Greece, 29 June 2015. Greek voters will decide in a referendum next Sunday on whether their government should accept an economic reform package put forth by Greece's creditor. Greece has imposed capital controls with the banks being closed untill the referendum. (Photo by Milos Bicanski/Getty Images)
A man holds a placard reading 'FMI+Troika=Criminals' as he protests in front of the European Commission headquarters in Barcelona during a demonstration in support of Greece, on June 29, 2015. Greece blindsided creditors on June 27, 2015 by calling a referendum for July 5 on the latest bailout proposal being offered to Greece, a move interpreted by its creditors as Athens' desire to break off negotiations. AFP PHOTO / LLUIS GENE (Photo credit should read LLUIS GENE/AFP/Getty Images)
A protester holds a Greek flag the ''NO'' slogan in reference to the forthcoming referendum on bailout conditions set by the country's creditors, during a demonstration in front of the Greek parliament in Athens on June 29, 2015. Greece shut its banks and the stock market and imposed capital controls after creditors at the weekend refused to extend the country's bailout past the June 30 deadline, prompting anxious citizens to empty ATMs. AFP PHOTO / ARIS MESSINIS (Photo credit should read ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images)
ATHENS, GREECE - JUNE 22: Riot police stand with shields as pro-Euro protesters take part in a rally in front of the Parliament on June 22. 2015 in Athens, Greece. Thousends of people attended the rally in support of Greece remaining in the European Union. The Eurozone's 19 national leaders held an emergency summit in Brussels to discuss the crisis and welcomed new proposals from the Greek government after talks today to haul Athens back from the brink of bankruptcy. (Photo by Milos Bicanski/Getty Images)
A protester burns a five-euro banknote during a demonstration calling for an exit from the eurozone and a 'No' in the upcoming referendum in Athens on June 28, 2015. Greece weighed drastic banking restrictions to stave off a financial collapse as anxious Greeks emptied cash machines amid fears that banks will be closed this week. AFP PHOTO / LOUISA GOULIAMAKI (Photo credit should read LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Protesters take part in a demonstration in front of the Greek parliament in Athens on June 29, 2015. Greece shut its banks and the stock market and imposed capital controls after creditors at the weekend refused to extend the country's bailout past the June 30 deadline, prompting anxious citizens to empty ATMs. AFP PHOTO / Angelos Tzortzinis (Photo credit should read ANGELOS TZORTZINIS/AFP/Getty Images)
Supporters of the No vote celebrate after the results of the referendum in the northern Greek port city of Thessaloniki, Sunday, July 5, 2015. Greeks overwhelmingly rejected creditors’ demands for more austerity in return for rescue loans in a critical referendum Sunday, backing Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who insisted the vote would give him a stronger hand to reach a better deal. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos)
A supporter of the No vote shouts slogans after the results of the referendum in the northern Greek port city of Thessaloniki, Sunday, July 5, 2015. Greeks overwhelmingly rejected creditors’ demands for more austerity in return for rescue loans in a critical referendum Sunday, backing Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who insisted the vote would give him a stronger hand to reach a better deal. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos)
Supporters of the No vote react after the results of the referendum at Syntagma square in Athens, Sunday, July 5, 2015. Greece faced an uncharted future as its interior ministry predicted Sunday that more than 60 percent of voters in a hastily called referendum had rejected creditors' demands for more austerity in exchange for rescue loans. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
Children wave Greek flags as supporters of the No vote react after the first results of the referendum at Syntagma square in Athens, Sunday, July 5, 2015. Greece faced an uncharted future as its interior ministry predicted Sunday that more than 60 percent of voters in a hastily called referendum had rejected creditors' demands for more austerity in exchange for rescue loans. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)
Supporters of the No vote react after the referendum's exit polls at Klafthmonos square in Athens, Sunday, July 5, 2015. Greece faced an uncharted future as officials counted the results of a referendum Sunday on whether to accept creditors' demands for more austerity in exchange for rescue loans, with three opinion polls showing a tight race with a narrow victory likely for the "no" side. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
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One official said that Greece's four big banks - National Bank of Greece (NBGr.AT), Eurobank (EURBr.AT), Piraeus (BOPr.AT) and Alpha Bank (ACBr.AT) - could be reduced to just two, a measure that would doubtless encounter fierce resistance in Athens.

A second person said that although mergers of banks were necessary, this could happen over the longer term.

"The Greek economy is in ruins. That means the banks need a restart," said the first person, adding that prompt action was necessary following any bailout between Athens and the euro zone. "Cyprus could be a role model."

"You have a tiny bit of time ... you would do restructuring straight away."

Greece's financial system has been at the heart of the current crisis, hemorrhaging deposits as relations between the radical left-wing government of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and creditors worsened.

After Athens defaulted on debt owed to the International Monetary Fund last month, the ECB froze emergency funding for the banks, precipitating their temporary closure and a 60-euro daily limit on withdrawals from cash machines.

A decision by Greek voters last week to reject bailout terms offered by the country's international creditors prompted the ECB to maintain its cap, meaning that the banks will run out of cash soon.

LIQUIDITY AND SOLVENCY

A year ago, Greece's bankers thought they were on the cusp of a new era. They had restructured as part of the country's bailout deal, had raised fresh equity from international investors and had regained access to debt markets to fund lending.

But the economic and political turmoil that has ensued since Tsipras came to power in January means that they are dangerously short of cash.

Even after the immediate liquidity problems are worked out, any restructuring of the sector would first require a prompt recapitalization of Greece's strongest lenders because rising bad debts and exposure to Greek government bonds mean they are in danger of becoming insolvent.

A timeline and exact plan for the sector's revamp could be finalised after a recapitalization.

Such action would face stiff political resistance in Athens, where Tsipras has pledged to 'restore our banking system's functioning'. Bank mergers save money but cost jobs, making them unpopular.

Reflecting such obstacles, a second person said: "There would be an interest in having less banks ... but I'm wondering whether this would make sense in the short term."

Any closures, which would be managed primarily by Greek authorities under the watch of the European Central Bank's supervisors, would not typically affect customers as their deposits and accounts would migrate to the bank's new owner.

Greece's finance ministry was not immediately available for comment, while a spokeswoman for the ECB said: "The ECB Banking Supervision is closely monitoring the situation of Greek banks and is in constant contact with the Bank of Greece."

CYPRUS MODEL

Any such revamp would be a stark reminder of the withered state of the country's financial system, where deposits had shriveled to their lowest level in more than a decade before savers were forced to ration cash withdrawals.

Of Greece's four big banks, National Bank of Greece, Eurobank and Piraeus fell short in an ECB health check last year, when their restructuring plans were not taken into account.

Only Alpha Bank was given an entirely clean bill of health.

A restructuring could follow a similar pattern to Cyprus, where one of the island's two main banks was closed as part of its stringent bailout, and Ireland, where three lenders were either shut or merged with rivals.

But a senior Greek banker, while acknowledging that the ECB could embark on fresh stress tests and "set the recapitalization, restructuring process going again", said any mergers would reduce competition.

"If the argument is cost efficiency and whether Greece is overbanked, with four players there is a semblance of competition," he said. "With fewer players, competition will be reduced even more."

(Additional reporting by George Georgiopoulos in Athens; Editing by Carmel Crimmins)

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