ATHENS (Reuters) - A review of Greek banks' loan portfolios by the European Central Bank will be completed by the end of the month, paving the way for their recapitalisation later this year, a Greek central bank official said on Tuesday.
The European Union estimates that Greece's four big banks will need between 10 billion euros ($11.18 billion) and 25 billion euros to shore up their capital reserves, but the exact amount needed will depend on the results of ECB stress tests and asset-quality reviews.
"The asset-quality review will be completed by end-September and their recapitalisation must be done by end-December," the official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said.
Greece's systemic banks, National Bank , Alpha Bank , Piraeus and Eurobank are majority owned by the Hellenic Financial Stability Fund (HFSF) apart from Eurobank. They will be recapitalised for the third time since 2012, as they remain burdened by bad loans.
The central bank wants private investor participation to be maintained in Greek banks, the official said, ruling out any mergers between the country's four systemic banks.
A working group from Greece's bank bailout fund, the finance ministry and the Bank of Greece will prepare the legal framework required for their recapitalisation, the official said.
Greek banks have seen billions of euros flow out of accounts this year when Greece was at risk of being thrown out of the euro zone. Capital controls were imposed to stop the flow.
Greek authorities are not planning to relax a current 420-euro weekly cash-withdrawal limit, but aim to ease restrictions on companies, particularly importers, the official said.
"In July, we were able to fund about 50 percent of imports compared to the same month a year ago, and in August there was an improvement to 80 percent," the official said.
($1 = 0.8942 euros)
(Reporting by George Georgiopoulos. Editing by Jane Merriman)