Polish watchdog places strict conditions on RBI over sale of local unit

By bne IntelliNews February 19, 2015

Poland's banking regulator KNF has issued strict conditions for its approval of Raiffeisen Bank International's (RBI) attempt to sell its local unit. The news will surprise few. 

RBI must fulfill the conditions made to the Polish Financial Supervision Authority, head Andrzej Jakubiak told the Polish Press Agency on February 19. The Austrian bank said earlier this month it will look to sell Polbank as part of a CEE wide scheme aimed at reducing risk weighted assets. It noted that efforts to accelerate the market share of its Polish unit would be highly expensive and tricky.

Jakubiak has not been shy in expressing his opposition to further consolidation of the Polish banking sector, nor KNF's insistance that earlier entrants meet their obligations. In 2012, when Raiffeisen Bank Polska took over Polbank, KNF demanded the merged bank be floated on the Warsaw Stock Exchange (WSE) by the middle of 2016.

The regulator says it will now insist on the move before approving any exit from the country's eighth-largest lender by the Austrian parent. RBI says it still plans to list in Poland, and may accelerate the offer.

Jakubiak also said he expects the credit rating of any new investor to equal to that of RBI. Moody's rates the parent at Baa2, S&P at A-, and Fitch at A. He also said an investor that is not currently present in Poland would be preferred. Those conditions mirror those imposed on GE late last year when it raised KNF's ire by putting BPH Bank up for sale. 

The sale of the US group's local unit has now been put on hold due to the surge of the Swiss franc, unnamed sources told Reuters this week. Polbank also has a hefty stock of CHF mortgages.

KNF has been pushing for banks to take a sizable hit to help borrowers with the sharp currency shift, which raises their installments dramatically. The government has said it wants to avoid large losses for lenders. However, any deals to sell Polish banks are unlikely to go forwards until the plan to deal with the issue is clarified.

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