(Adds more details, quotes, and comment)
By Marcin Goclowski
WARSAW Feb 16 Poland's leading internet bank
mBank is setting up a 50-million-euro ($53 million)
fund to buy and develop home-grown technology start-ups rather
than letting them go abroad.
With 5 million customers in Poland and neighbouring
countries, mBank was built out of former corporate lender BRE
Bank and is owned by Germany's Commerzbank.
"So far if someone in Poland had a good idea the best advice
... was 'just buy a ticket to San Francisco or London and
develop your idea there'," Jaroslaw Mastalerz, head of the fund,
and former mBank CEO responsible for IT and retail, said.
MBank's first mover advantage helped it to build strong
internet-based retail operations and its technology is regarded
as the reference point for the sector in Poland.
It now wants to buy companies in areas such as automation,
cyber security, data analytics and digital marketing, introduce
bring them into mBank, and once they are developed try to find
clients for them within banks globally.
"There are plenty of companies in Poland who have no ability
to reach big venture capital funds, gather financing and reach
the scale. We want to create an address in Warsaw for them,"
Mastalerz added at the fund's launch on Thursday.
MBank said it expects to invest in at least seven companies
during the fund's projected life of 10 years, although the plan
got a lukewarm response from some analysts.
"50 million euros is their quarterly profit. Their capital
ratios are very high, so they are able to engage some excess
capital in higher-risk investments," Kamil Stolarski, an analyst
with Haitong, said.
"But to exist in venture capital one has to have a team of
people and competencies. I'm afraid that little will come of
this," he said.
MBank shares, which are up by more than 20 percent this
year, had risen by 0.2 percent at 1148 GMT, underperforming the
main index of the bourse.
MBank's valuation has risen on better-than-expected results
and comments by Law and Justice (PiS) head Jaroslaw Kaczynski
suggesting the ruling party scrap plans to force banks to
convert foreign currency loans into zlotys at a
($1 = 0.9408 euros)
(Writing by Lidia Kelly and Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk; Editing by
Jason Neely and Alexander Smith)