November 26, 2019 / 2:06 PM / 9 days ago

Serbia boosts Komercijalna Banka stake as it eyes privatisation

BELGRADE, Nov 26 (Reuters) - Serbia’s finance ministry bought a 34.58% stake in Komercijalna Banka from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and International Finance Corporation (IFC) in preparation for a planned privatisation, it said on Tuesday.

It paid 217 million euros ($239 million) to increase its stake in the country’s second-biggest lender to privatise it under a 30-month non-financial and advisory deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The government now owns 83.23% of the ordinary shares of the Komercijalna Banka.

In June Belgrade bought 6.89% of Komercijalna Banka’s ordinary shares from Swedfund and DEG.

“The consolidation of the ownership structure has been completed ...in line with the ongoing privatisation procedure,” the ministry said in a statement.

In the first half of 2019, the Komercijalna Banka reported a 20% rise in profit to 4.3 billion Serbian dinars ($40 million).

In May the finance ministry said prospective bidders for Komercijalna Banka must have been engaged in banking for the past three years and have total assets of more than 1 billion euros, or own a minimum 20% stake in a big banking group, among other criteria.

On Sept 12, Slovenia’s largest bank NLB bank filed a non-binding bid to purchase Komercijalna Banka.

Austria’s Raiffeisen, Serbia’s AIK Banka, as well as a consortium comprised of U.S.-based Ripplewood Advisors, Serbia’s Direktna Banka and Greece’s Eurobank had also expressed interest.

($1 = 0.9073 euros)

$1 = 106.5200 Serbian dinars Reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic; editing by Jason Neely

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