National Bank of Greece SA has halted the sale of its Ethniki Insurance unit after the coronavirus pandemic dashed any lingering hopes of a successful auction, according to people familiar with the matter.

In addition to the market rout, bids for the unit came in lower than expected, prompting the Greek lender to put the divestment on hold, said the people. National Bank could restart a sale once the situation stabilizes, the people said, asking not to be identified because discussions are private.

Ethniki Insurance had attracted bids from suitors including buyout firm CVC Capital Partners, while Chinese conglomerate Fosun International Ltd. and private equity firm Varde Partners dropped out of the process, the people said. Offers came in substantially lower than the target of as much as 600 million euros ($658 million), they said.

Representatives for National Bank, CVC and Varde declined to comment, while Fosun couldn’t be immediately reached.

It’s another blow for National Bank, which has been trying to sell the asset for years to shore up its capital buffers. Greece’s biggest lender by assets pledged to the European Commission after the financial crisis that it would try to offload the business.

National Bank joins a long list of companies putting asset sales on hold as the spread of the virus roils financing and equity markets. The volume of deals through March marks the slowest quarter since the first three months of 2014, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

–With assistance from Shirley Zhao.

Topics COVID-19