Mystery deepens around new owners of Hungary’s MKB

By bne IntelliNews June 17, 2016

The mystery over the identity of the buyers of one of Hungary's largest banks in a privatisation deal only deepened on June 17 on the back of reports that an Indian-born businessman is behind one of the private equity funds involved. Speculation remains that the central bank is actually behind the acquisition.

Rakesh Kumar Aggarwal is reported to have recently taken control of Blue Robin Investments SCA, one of the two private equity funds that bought major stakes in MKB in late April. However, questions remain over the fund's ability to pay the purchase price.

According to reports, the private equity fund will have to pay HUF17bn for its 45% stake in MKB. However, Blue Robin Investments currently holds just HUF2.4mn. The information only deepens suspicion that Hungary’s central bank is ultimately behind the purchase of MKB via its six controversial foundations.

The Magyar Nemzeti Bank (MNB) which oversaw MKB - previously Hungary's fourth largest bank - after it was bought by the state in 2014, has repeatedly rejected those claims. However, with the deal supposed to be closed by June 30, much mystery remains.

According to the announced deal, Luxembourg-based Blue Robin - alongside Hungarian private equity fund Metis - is set to buy 45% of MKB. Hungarian pension fund Pannonia will take the remaining 10%. The purchase price for 100% of the lender is HUF37bn (€117.8mn).

GRAHA Investment Hungary became the sole owner of Blue Robin Investment on June 7, according to Magyar Narancs. GRAHA is reportedly owned by Aggarwal, an Indian-born businessman living in Singapore that also owns four companies based in the British Virgin Islands. Aggarwal is also the owner and director of film-making company House Studio Pvt. Ltd, and has business links with Sony Pictures and Bollywood's Eros Network.

Magyar Narancs claims that information in business registries give rise to suspicion that Aggarwal is breaking the law by using two DIN numbers, a unique identification number used in India.

At the same time, according to 444.hu market speculation suggests Prime Minister Viktor Orban plans to push lender FHB from its role controlling the country’s saving cooperatives, replacing it with MKB. The PM has furiously defended MNB chief Gyorgy Matolscy during the recent scandal over the spending of public money by the central bank's foundations. Sources claim “Orban trusts [the mystery new owners of MKB] as much as he trusts himself”.

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