Sberbank in hunt for Volksbanken VBI unit -sources

VIENNA Mon Feb 7, 2011 9:48am EST

VIENNA Feb 7 (Reuters) - Russia's Sberbank SBER03.MM is among three potential buyers eyeing Austrian lender Oesterreichische Volksbanken AG's VBI eastern European arm, sources close to the matter said.

Oesterreichische Volksbanken AG (OTVVp.VI), Austria's fourth-biggest lender, in December last year put its 51 percent stake in Volksbanken International and its sister leasing business up for sale. [ID:nLDE6B61NG]

France's Banque Populaire Caisse d'Epargne and Germany's DZ Bank/WGZ Bank each own 24.5 percent of the unit.

"We understand that a 100 percent potential sale is on the table, subject to valuation," one of the sources said. A deal might emerge by mid-year, another source said.

A Volksbanken source said that there were more than three bidders, but declined to give more details.

Oesterreichische Volksbanken is under pressure to raise money to start paying back 1 billion euros in state aid it got during the financial crisis, and is due to pay back 300 million euros of aid in 2011. [ID:nLDE6B61NG].

"I think the plan is to use some of the proceeds of the sale to help towards the 300 million euros," the person added.

Agreeing a price for VBI could be tricky, with the seller looking for upwards of 1.8 billion euros ($2.44 billion) according to one source, and buyers pitching for a price tag of no more than VBI's equity of 1.2 billion, according another.

($1=.7380 Euro)

(Additional reporting by Arno Schuetze and Philipp Halstrick in Frankfurt, Oksana Kobzeva in Moscow and Victoria Howley in London, Editing by Douwe Miedema)

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