J&T joins the rush into Czech retail banking

By bne IntelliNews April 12, 2012

Tim Gosling in Prague -

J&T Banka is jumping aboard the bandwagon to grab a slice of the Czech retail banking segment through the acquisition of a controlling stake in Postova Banka. The move is the latest bid by private equity to take up the lending slack created amongst the country's major banks by the debt crisis.

The Czech-Slovak financial group has increased its 9.9% stake in Postova to 75-80% at a cost of at least €200m, Hospodarske Noviny reported on April 10. Patrik Tkac, deputy head of the J&T' board, said that entry to the Czech market is the driving force behind the move.

The stake in the bank - which is headquartered in Slovakia but entered the Czech market in March 2010 - is to be bought from businessman Mario Hoffmann. Negotiations on the acquisition have been ongoing with Hoffman's Istrokapital since late 2011, according to the report. The seller has seen its control of Postova slip since losing €275m on Greek bonds. Hoffmann will reportedly continue to control management and remain chairman until 2015.

J&T is one of a handful of closely-held Czech and Slovak financial groups thought to be sitting with cash ready for opportunist investment as the debt crisis takes its toll. Its move to enter the mass Czech retail-banking segment is similar to Czech PPF, which launched Air Bank in 2011.

Raiffeisen unit Zuno and Equa Bank - owned by private equity fund AnaCap Financial Partners LLP - are other new names to have arrived on the market in the last 12 months. All of these small operators are chasing Czech consumer credit clients that are faced with the pullback in lending by the country's major banks, which are owned by Eurozone banks facing a race against time to raise tier 1 capital ratios under orders from the EU.

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