* Departure follows regulatory crackdown
* Two savings and loans groups buy Speder's stake
By Gergely Szakacs
BUDAPEST, Oct 14 Zoltan Speder, chairman of
Hungary's FHB Bank, resigned on Friday and sold his 14
percent stake in the lender after a regulatory crackdown and a
probe by Hungarian authorities.
Speder's departure follows a Hungarian government
investigation earlier this year of his business interests as it
tried to loosen the billionaire's influence over its savings
In June the central bank, run by Gyorgy Matolcsy, a close
ally of Prime Minister Viktor Orban, fined FHB over a 2012 bond
issue. FHB bought back the bond, hitting its capital position
and prompting a review for a possible downgrade by Moody's.
"Zoltan Speder was the member and the chairman of the Board
of Directors since 29 April 2008. He had (an) extraordinary part
in the development of FHB Banking Group during the past years,"
FHB said in a filing with the Budapest Stock Exchange announcing
Speder's resignation. It did not name a successor.
The bank did not say why Speder quit at FHB, the smaller of
two listed local banks after OTP, central Europe's
largest independent lender. An FHB spokesman declined comment.
FHB said an asset management company controlled by Speder,
A64 Vagyonkezelo, sold 15.57 million FHB shares at 480 forints
($1.77) each in an off-market transaction to savings and loans
groups Fokusz Takarekszovetkezet and B3 TAKAREK Szovetkezet.
Speder sold the shares, representing a 14.35 percent stake
in FHB, at a discount to Friday's closing price of 499 forints,
according to Reuters data.
Fokusz and B3 said the transaction would benefit FHB by
providing a "transparent and predictable" ownership background
as well as "outstanding potential for growth."
Savings banks have been an important avenue for Orban to
secure more than half of the bank sector in Hungarian hands,
part of a maverick economic policy that has earned him criticism
from the European Union.
On June 9, police raided FHB's office and some of Speder's
other business interests such as the Hungarian Postal Service.
His media company was also hit by a tax probe, and
government-friendly media published reports sharply critical of
The reason and the timing of those moves was unclear, but
analysts and media commentators suspect Speder, once close to
Orban, fell out of favour with the premier.
Other parts of the banking industry also complained that FHB
was enjoying tax breaks and other benefits intended for savings
and loans banks, even though FHB is a classic commercial retail
Shares in FHB, which has a market capitalisation of $119.3
million, have fallen 8.4 percent over the past three months,
underperforming the blue chip index, which gained 4.5
Including FHB, the savings sector has a 9.1 percent market
share by total assets, with about 1,500 branch offices and 1
million customers, according to data on its web site.
($1 = 271.8 forints)
(Reporting by Gergely Szakacs; Editing by Adrian Croft)