KBC Begins Withdrawal from Slovenias Largest Bank

27. Juni 2006, 00:00

The Belgian banking and financial group KBC has begun procedures to reduce its stake in Slovenias largest bank, ...

The Belgian banking and financial group KBC has begun procedures to reduce its stake in Slovenias largest bank, NLB, KBC vice-chairman Andre Bergen has told the press. 

This is in line with last months announcement by KBC, which holds 34 per cent in NLB, that it would reduce its role in the NLB to that of a financial investor. 

According to Bergen, the KBC has offers from five international financial institutions for the sale of its stake. "We will sell our stake if we get a good offer," he added. 

He denied that KBC had received offers from Italian or Austrian banks as had been speculated in some media. 

"We launched procedures several weeks ago, since this is the best thing for NLB given our announcement that we will remain merely a financial investor," Bergen said at a press conference for Slovenian journalists. 

The KBC took the decision to reduce its role in NLB because it could not convince the Slovenian government to allow it to raise its stake to 49 per cent. However, Bergen denied that its move was a negotiating tactic. 

"Im sad and not angry," Bergen said in a reference to the failed talks between the KBC and the Slovenian government. 

"We, the NLB and KBC, have all lost a big opportunity following four years of cooperation," Bergen added. He explained that the KBC never had any assurances that it would get a majority stake in NLB.

"I would be surprised if we were still shareholders by years end under the current terms," Bergen said.

"If the government comes up with a new proposal, we will study it. KBC is not an institution that would shut the door," he added. 

Moreover, he explained that the KBC had offered to become a 49-per-cent owner of NLB for some time, but under certain conditions, including improving the efficiency of the bank.

According to him, NLB needs to raise its return on equity, which is below the Slovenia and regional average.

Moreover, Bergen said that the KBC had previously offered to supply fresh capital to NLB with which the bank could finance its expansion in the Balkans but the supervisory board never took a decision on the offer.

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