Poland eyes increased state stakes in banking and KGHM

By bne IntelliNews March 23, 2016

Poland wants to increase state ownership of the banking sector to 50%, and also aims to raise its stake in copper and silver miner KGHM, the treasury minister said in comments published on March 23.

Law and Justice (PiS) came to power in November promising to stop, or at least slow down, privatisation and increase the role of the state in the economy. The government has stated plainly that all privatisation of large companies will be halted, and that it will seek to increase state stakes, whenever possible.

The state should “rebuild” its position in the country’s banking sector, which is dominated by foreign owners, Treasury Minister Dawid Jackiewicz told the pro-government weekly Gazeta Polska. While he denied speculation the government plans to merge Poland’s largest lender PKO BP with insurance giant PZU, he said the latter’s take over of banks would be welcome.

The treasury has recently pushed PZU to revive a bid - postponed late last year - to build a large banking group to "repolonise" the sector. The state-controlled company bought a 25% stake in Alior Bank in May and is now speculated to be in late stage talks with General Electric over its local lender Bank BPH. Financial sector watchdog KNF has said it supports the move, having long opposed any further consolidation in banking.

“In this way we would rebuild the state’s position in the sector in which we had only 25% stake until recently," Jackiewicz said. "Ideally, we would like to reach a stake of at least 50%, which would be a minimum level to secure Poland’s interests in the sector and also let us influence it in real terms”.

Warsaw is also eyeing KGHM, the minister revealed. "My dream is to raise the treasury's stake in KGHM to a level close to 40%. For the time being it remains part of some plans and projects. But if proper funds come up I will consider such action," he said.

Poland controls the giant metals miner via a 31.8% stake, after a 10% stake was sold for PLN2bn (€470mn) in 2010, a deal which provoked no little criticism from PiS. The government has been debating since coming to power a drop in the mining tax, which sees KGHM providing huge income for the state.



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