Alpha Bank announced on January 31 it has agreed with Serbia’s MK Group on the sale of its 100% stake in the share capital of Alpha Bank Srbija.
Athens-based Alpha Bank was one of four Greek banks understood to be seeking a buyer for its operations in Serbia, as Greek banks pull back from the Balkans region.
“The sale of Alpha Bank Srbija A.D. is expected to be capital ratio and liquidity accretive for the bank and contributes towards, and is fully consistent with, the execution of its restructuring plan,” the press release reads.
According to Alpha Bank’s January 31 press release, the transaction is subject to customary regulatory approvals.
Alpha Bank entered the Serbian market in 2002 and expanded its presence in 2005 through the privatisation of Jubanka A.D. Beograd in a deal worth €152mn.
In late January, Serbia’s former central bank governor Radovan Jelasic, who is now a member of Greek-based Hellenic Financial Stability Fund’s supervisory board, said four Greek banks in Serbia were for sale. Alongside Alpha Bank Srbija, they include Vojvodjanska Banka-National Bank of Greece (NBG), Piraeus Bank and Eurobank.
Alpha Bank’s statement did not elaborate on MK Group’s future plans for the Serbian bank. However, according to local media, Alpha Bank Srbija is being taken over by Serbian lender AIK banka, which is majority owned by MK Group founder Miodrag Kostic, better known as Serbia’s “sugar king”.
Recently, MK Group has been expanding its operations in the tourism and banking sectors within the region. Kostic started raising his stake in AIK banka in early 2014 and it exceeded 90% in July 2016. Kostic now aims to increase his stake in AIK to 100%.
After the acquisition of Alpha Bank’s operations in Serbia, AIK could become the fourth largest bank in Serbia, with a 8.4% market share.
AIK banka is also the second largest stakeholder in Slovenia's Gorenjska banka, after acquiring a 13.9% stake in January 2016, and is interested in increasing its holding. Slovenian financial holding Sava, Gorenjska banka's largest single shareholder, announced in July 2016 that the owners of over 50% of the small private lender's shares had decided to put it on sale - possibly paving the way for a takeover by Kostic.
MK Group is a leading sugar, food and agri-food producer in Serbia. Founded in 1980, it has 35 subsidiaries in Serbia, Ukraine and Switzerland. Since 2009 it has diversified and is now also active in tourism, IT, financial services, real estate and energy.
The acquisition of the stake in Gorenjska Banka is not Kostic's first recent investment in Slovenia. In September, his MK Group acquired the Kempinski Palace Portoroz, a five-star luxury hotel complex on the Adriatic coast. In April, Kostic also acquired a 15.23% stake in Montenegrin hotel operator HG Budvanska Rivijera.
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