PZU eyes building Polish banking giant

By bne IntelliNews April 23, 2015

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Polish state-controlled insurance company PZU is eyeing several acquisitions in the country’s banking sector in a bid to build a large new bank, local media reported on April 23.

The Warsaw-listed PZU is interested in the 25% stake in Alior Bank put up for sale by Carlo Tassara, according to Puls Biznesu. PZU already holds a 4.5% stake in Alior via its pension fund and investment fund units. 

The insurance company is now conducting due dilligence on increasing its interest in the lender which has assets of around PLN30.1bn (€7.47bn). PZU could also count on the support of Alior's management, which holds 10% of voting rights, with which it has good relations, reports Erste.

At the same time, PZU came close to confirming that it is looking to take advantage of efforts by two other foreign owners to sell their Polish lenders - Raiffeisen Polbank and Bank BPH. “PZU is ready to take part in acquisitions in the banking sector, guaranteeing their financing,” a company spokesman told the newspaper.

Austria's Raiffeisen Bank International said early this year that it wants to sell Polbank, whose assets stand at PLN53.5bn. With the risks connected to exposure to Swiss franc loans having all but halted M&A in the Polish banking sector, GE Money Capital has gone quiet in recent weeks, but is still known to be keen to offload BPH, which boasts PLN31.6bn in assets.

Should PZU take over all three banks it is reportedly eyeing, it would create a bank with PLN115bn in assets, among the biggest in the country, Erste adds. "This would also be in line with plans of the Treasury Ministry, which would like to increase domestic ownership in the banking sector," the analysts point out.

At the same time, PZU could find it easier than other potential suitors to gain regulatory blessing to buy the banks. Watchdog KNF has vigorously opposed further consolidation of the bank sector.

Erste, meanwhile, suggests PZU could gain benefits for its core business by moving into the sector.  “In its most recent strategy, PZU did not mention its interest in the financial services industry. In our view, the idea is good, as PZU could increase the frequency of contact with clients and potential clients, and hence have more chances of selling them its products,” the analysts suggest.

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