Santander reportedly turns to EBRD for help with Kredyt

By bne IntelliNews February 17, 2012

bne -

Despite recent claims that the deal is about to close, Spanish giant Santander appears to be having real problems swallowing Polish minnow Kredyt Bank, with reports on February 16 claiming it's now hoping to pull the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) into partnering it in the acquisition.

Pinned down by the need to pay off billions in state aid granted during the credit crisis, Belgian banking group KBC put Kredyt Bank up for sale in the autumn. Santander, which entered Poland via the acquisition of BZWBK early last year, has been mentioned as a potential buyer ever since, but despite intermittent reports of progress, or even an imminent deal, Kredyt remains in Belgian hands.

Various potential partners for Santander have popped up in media reports. In late January it was said to be in talks with private equity fund Apax about making a joint bid. Now, Reuters reports, it's the turn of the EBRD, which supposedly still has a mandate to support the banking sector in "transition" countries such as Poland.

Unnamed sources told the newswire that the Eurozone's biggest banking group is seeking to get the develoment bank on board. "Santander brought in EBRD, which is usually in for a minority stake," one claimed. "An announcement (about a completed deal) should see the light of day soon."

It's far from the first time the market has heard that. The difficulties are not clear, but the delay, and growing list of potential partners, suggest that Santander is struggling to find the cash to complete the acquisition on its own. The assumption is that the need for a partner is connected to Santander's challenge in complying with the EU deadline of June 30 to raise tier-1 capital to 9%.

At the same time, the Polish banking market is one of the most attractive in Europe right now, offering both stability and significant growth. That combination is hardly common, and KBC is unlikely to want to hand Kredyt over on the cheap if it can avoid it.

Pointing out that the Portuguese BCP Group recently pulled out of selling Bank Millennium, Svetlana Kovalskaya at Renaissance Capital commented that "deals are unlikely to happen in this environment, irrespective of ongoing speculation in the media."

"If the deal were to happen," she added, "we think it would provide a positive read-across for Polish banks: at last, supply would meet demand for a Polish bank deal and stock overhang would diminish."

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