Polish state-controlled entities have agreed to buy a 32.8% stake in UniCredit’s Polish banking business Pekao, it was announced on December 8. The news came just hours after Austria's Raiffeisen Bank International reported it has pulled out of talks to sell its local unit to the state-controlled group that is seeking to build a major new Polish banking group.
Polish state-controlled insurer PZU announced that it and state investment fund PFR have reached a deal to buy a 32.8% stake in Pekao from Italian banking group UniCredit. The deal is priced at PLN10.6bn (€2.4bn), which translates as PLN123 per share. PZU will take a 20% stake, PFR will buy 12.8%.
UniCredit is selling its interest in Poland's second largest bank as part of a drive to raise an estimated €16bn to reinforce its capital buffers which have come under pressure because of bad loans. The Italian group has sold 20% of Pekao in recent months via two accelerated book builds.
For PZU, the deal is a step forward in its strategy to build a major new banking group, a plan propelled by the government which is keen to "repolonise" the banking sector and raise state ownership. Currently 58% of Polish banking is controlled by foreign investors.
However, the Polish state entities have disappointment as well as celebration to cope with. Hours before PZU's announcement, Raiffeisen Bank International (RBI) said that it has ended exclusive talks with Alior Bank - in which PZU bought a controlling stake last year - over the sale of Raiffesien Polbank. Alior acquired BPH from GE Capital in April.
The Austrian bank has been looking to offload its businesses in Poland for close to two years, but uncertainties hanging over the Polish banking sector have held back interest. Polish regulator KNF said in early October RBI had until end of June next year to complete the deal.
However, a deadline of the end of November to agree a deal had already been broken. Sources suggest that the single bidder pushed the Austrian group too hard on pricing.
RBI bought the bank in 2012 but had agreed with KNF to sell or carry out an IPO of at least 15% on the Warsaw Stock Exchange. An RBI spokeswoman told Reuters the group would start with IPO preparations immediately though no other details were offered.
Like UniCredit, RBI was pursuing an exit from Poland as part of a restructuring effort. However, the bank said in its statement that it is now close to achieving its capital ratio targets.