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OPINION: Sale of Piraeus' Balkan assets to add to reshuffling of regional bank ownership

OPINION: Sale of Piraeus' Balkan assets to add to reshuffling of regional bank ownership Capricorn Studio/Shutterstock.com

SOFIA (Bulgaria), July 4 (SeeNews) – The likely buyer or buyers of the Balkan assets of Greece's Piraeus Bank will be either private equity, or banks already present on those markets, according to Rob Irving, partner and co-chair of Dentons’ global private equity group.

"It really depends on the headquarters’ strategy," Irving told SeeNews in an e-mailed statement.

Should Piraeus Bank go for a quick sale of the entire portfolio, the most likely buyer would be private equity, Irving said.

If the subsidiaries are sold separately, with the aim of value maximization, the most likely buyers will be banks, which are already present in those markets, which is a growing tendency.

The planned sale "will add to the ongoing reshuffling of ownership of the banking sector in the Balkans," said Irving. "Whether or not they want to admit it, many international banks have been looking to unload their operations in the region for some time," he added without elaborating.

Irving also said that "purely domestic groups" are increasingly emerging as the consolidators of the banking sector in the region.

According to media reports published last month, Piraeus Bank intends to sell its wholly-owned subsidiaries in Albania, Bulgaria, Romania and Serbia as part of a plan to reduce its foreign exposures.

Such sales, however, can take longer, as it may take more time to unload operations in, for example, Albania than operations in Romania, Irving said.

Montenegrin media reported last week that Jean-Philippe Guillaume, regional director of Societe Generale for the Balkans, has denied media reports that the French lender has applied with Montenegro's central bank to approve the sale of its Montenegrin unit to a local lender, Crnogorska Komercijalna banka (CKB).

Last month, Belgium's KBC Group completed the acquisition of National Bank of Greece's (NBG) subsidiary United Bulgarian Bank (UBB) and leasing company Interlease.

Also last month, Bulgaria relaunched the sale of 100% of the capital of Victoria Bank, a unit of bankrupt Corporate Commercial Bank (Corpbank). In March, Bulgaria's central bank said it declined to grant preliminary approval to the request of Sofia-based D Commerce Bank to acquire Victoria, saying the proposed strategy for the acquisition and business development of the bank pose 'considerable risks'.

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