The CEO of UniCredit will meet with Polish government officials and financial market regulator KNF early next month to discuss the future of of Italian banking group's Polish unit Pekao, local media reported on August 8.
Speculation on the fate of the second largest Polish lender has been rife since UniCredit offloaded a 10% stake in Pekao in a suddent sale last month. The Italian bank is seeking cash to raise capital buffers, as the southern European country's lenders struggle. For Warsaw, potential sale of Pekao may be an opportunity to make a big step in the strategy of “repolonisation” of the banking sector.
State-controlled insurer PZU has hinted at being interested in taking over Pekao, while government officials have said the state would be interested in the buying the 30% the Italian bank retains. KNF has given its blessing to PZU's drive to build a top five banking group, but has spent years insiting it would block any attempt at further consolidation within the banking sector by any of the current top players.
However, UniCredit is mulling more than one option, according to Puls Biznesu. CEO Jean Pierre Moustier is reported to be thinking of retaining the status quo if the Italian group – which is under pressure because of non-performing loans and low interest rates – manages to raise capital in ways other than selling assets. The Italian bank could also seek to sell some of its stake in Pekao via the stock exchange.
Moustier is also reportedly to meet with a representative of the Polish government, the newspaper claims. Banking sector sources maintain, however, that the UniCredit CEO is unlikely to bow to pressure from Warsaw unless the state offers the right price. The remaining stake in Pekao is estimated to be worth about €3.3bn, which would cover close to a half of UniCredit’s capital needs.
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