* Banca Transilvania to buy Volksbanken unit
* Aims to become Romania’s second-biggest lender
* No financial details disclosed (Adds details)
By Michael Shields and Luiza Ilie
VIENNA/BUCHAREST, Dec 10 (Reuters) - Banca Transilvania , Romania’s third-biggest bank, said on Wednesday it would buy Austrian lender Volksbanken AG’s Romanian business, in a deal that could mark the first move in a wave of sector consolidation in the eastern European country.
Neither side disclosed financial details of the acquisition although Banca Transilvania described the price as “reasonable” for both sides. The deal is set to close in the first half of 2015 pending regulatory approval.
The acquisition is an important step for Banca Transilvania towards its aim of becoming Romania’s second-largest lender in a market some see as overcrowded, with too many banks grappling with weak lending growth and bad loans.
Shares in the lender were up 1.6 percent at 1239 GMT.
For its part, Volksbanken had to sell the business, in which it holds a 51 percent stake, by the end of next year under terms set by the European Commission in return for allowing state aid.
Volksbanken was rescued by the Austrian government after an over-ambitious expansion at home and in eastern Europe hit a wall in the global financial crisis.
“We were and we continue to be open to any opportunity in the market ... that makes sense for us,” Banca Transilvania board chairman Horia Ciorcila said at a press conference in Bucharest. “Through this acquisition and organic growth we aim to become the second-largest bank.”
Romania’s largest lender is BCR, owned by Austria’s Erste Group Bank. Romania’s current No.2 bank is BRD , controlled by France’s Societe Generale.
Banca Transilvania aims to increase its share of the Romanian market to 15 percent by the end of next year, up from the current 9.7 percent with assets of 7.7 billion euros ($9.5 billion). It calculates Volksbank’s share at 3.5 percent.
Volksbanken, which failed this year’s European stress test of banks’ ability to withstand shocks, plans to turn itself into a “bad bank” to wind down remaining assets.
In October, Raiffeisen Romania CEO Steven van Groningen said consolidation in Europe’s banking sector was unavoidable and could partly be triggered by health checks on lenders.
Volksbank Romania S.A. has 135 branches, 190,000 clients and total assets of 3.1 billion euros, Volksbanken said.
Banca Transilvania will buy the stakes of Volksbank’s other investors which include Groupe BPCE with 24.5 percent, DZ Bank with 16.4 percent and WGZ Bank with 8.14 percent.
Rothschild & Cie and the Schoenherr law firm advised the sellers, Volksbanken said.
$1 = 0.8076 euros Writing by Michael Shields and Matthias Williams; Editing by Keith Weir and Mark Potter