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BELGRADE (Serbia), August 1 (SeeNews) – Austria's Erste banking group has decided not to bid for Serbian lender Komercijalna Banka [BEL:KMBN] as it prefers to invest in developing its digital banking activities in the country, its CEO Andreas Treichl said.
"If we were to buy a bank it would cost us 500 million euro ($551.9 million), we would have 100 branches and we would have to integrate them. We asked ourselves what can we do with 500 million euro if we invest that in digitalisation and in our employees. We decided in favour of that and will not initiate another integration process," Treichl said on Wednesday, as seen in a video file posted on the website of Erste Group.
Erste has excellent opportunities in Serbia and intends to grow in the country through its George digital banking platform, Treichl said at a news conference on the presentation of the group's financial results for the first half of 2019.
"Serbia has to be included in the George platform by the end of 2021, but perhaps it is going to be 2022. We have many customers there and we want to grow digitally there," he noted.
In June, Serbia's finance ministry said it has received six valid expressions of interest in the sale of Komercijalna Banka. In late May, Serbia's finance ministry invited expressions of interest for the purchase of at least 50.1% shareholding interest in Komercijalna Banka, including the entire state-owned stake, which then stood at 41.75%.
In addition to purchasing the state-owned stake, the buyer will acquire all or part of the 41.48% shareholding interest in Komercijalna Banka held by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), IFC Capitalization Fund, German investment fund DEG and Sweden's Swedfund, the finance ministry said. In this way, the investor will be able to control a stake of up to 83.23%.
Meanwhile, the Serbian government bought in June a 6.8% stake in Komercijalna from DEG and Swedfund for a total of 5.1 billion dinars ($48.3 million 42.5 million euro) on the Belgrade Stock Exchange.
($ = 0.9061 euro)