Daniel Bouton, the chairman of Societe Generale whose reputation was hit by a trading scandal at the bank, resigned and blamed relentless verbal attacks on his performance for his decision to quit.

The repeated attacks against me personally in France for the past fifteen months affect me, but most of all, they risk harming the bank and its 163,000 employees, he said in a statement.

Bouton's replacement will be elected on May 6, the day before SocGen issues its first-quarter results.

Analysts said either SocGen Chief Executive Frederic Oudea or former PSA Peugeot Citroen
head Jean-Martin Folz could replace Bouton. Folz also serves on the SocGen board as a non-executive director.

Bouton was dealt a blow in January 2008 when SocGen unveiled 4.9 billion euros ($6.5 billion) of losses due to unauthorised trades conducted by Jerome Kerviel, a former junior trader at the French bank.

He previously held the joint role of chief executive and chairman but public outcry over the Kerviel scandal led him to step down from the chief executive position last year.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy criticized Bouton over the Kerviel affair and Sarkozy's administration again attacked the bank last month over executive pay packages.

In March, SocGen's top managers decided to give up stock options following public anger over the fact that money received from the French state to help it through the financial crisis could be used to remunerate executives.

SocGen shares were up 0.7 percent at 36.25 euros in early afternoon trade, underperforming a 2.5 percent rise in the DJ Stoxx European bank sector <.SX7P>.

Analysts said Bouton's resignation had been expected for some time. I don't think it has anything to do with the bank's financial performance. It was due to the political pressure, said one analyst who declined to be named.

CEO OUDEA TO ADD CHAIRMAN'S ROLE?

The global financial crisis has caused the downfall of many senior bankers around the world. In Britain, Fred Goodwin was forced to leave Royal Bank of Scotland , while Bank of America Chief Executive Kenneth Lewis is also under pressure over his position.

French radio station Europe 1 said Bouton could be replaced by Folz, while other analysts said Oudea was a more likely candidate.

Oudea is the only name that's circulating for now, said a Paris-based fund manager who declined to be named.

The problem now for the bank is how to ensure an orderly handover of the baton from Bouton, said Agilis Gestion fund manager Arnaud Scarpaci.

Reyl France fund manager Dorothee Marty said she would prefer SocGen to choose a banker for its next chairman rather than someone from outside the financial industry.

Following last month's controversy over the executive pay packages, SocGen again found itself in the firing line this week when it denied a front-page headline in newspaper Liberation of a new financial scandal at the bank.

Bouton had been a staunch defender of SocGen's independence.

In 1999, he helped repel a takeover bid by cross-town rival BNP Paribas and when the bank again became vulnerable to a possible bid in the wake of the Kerviel debacle, Bouton reiterated SocGen's desire to see off any predators.

Analysts said Bouton's resignation was unlikely to reignite the longstanding speculation of an eventual tie-up between BNP Paribas and SocGen, mainly since any such merger would likely result in large-scale job losses.

SocGen shares have gained 1 percent in value since the start of 2009, while BNP's shares have risen about 30 percent. SocGen bank has a market capitalization of about 21 billion euros, while BNP has a stock market value of 36 billion euros.

(Editing by Rupert Winchester and Andrew Macdonald)

($1=.7579 Euro)