Ithuba hired to sell Austria's Volksbanken Leasing Int'l

VIENNA Wed May 22, 2013 5:47am EDT

VIENNA May 22 (Reuters) - The owners of Volksbanken Leasing International, a top three leasing company in central and eastern Europe, have hired Ithuba Capital to advise on its sale, putting pressure on Raiffeisen Zentralbank to decide whether it wants the business.

Partly nationalised Austrian lender Volksbanken AG said on Wednesday it and co-owner VR-Leasing AG, a unit of Germany's DZ Bank, had awarded the mandate to Ithuba, run by veteran investment banker Willi Hemetsberger.

RZB has been in talks for months about how to support Volksbanken's state rescue last year and had said it may buy leasing assets as its contribution.

Hemetsberger said Raiffeisen was one of the bidders but no longer had exclusive access. "It is very important that this is an open process," he told Reuters.

He said strategic investors active in the region as well as private equity or credit funds and financial investors could be interested in a low-risk asset with good yields.

Volksbanken needs to sell its 50 percent stake in the vehicle and machinery leasing company by the end of 2014 under the terms of a bailout agreement approved by the European Commission.

Volksbanken Leasing earned 46 million euros ($59.2 million) before tax in 2012, when it booked almost 950 million euros in new business.

It had around 130,000 contracts and gross receivables of around 1.8 billion euros at the end of last year. ($1 = 0.7769 euros) (Reporting by Michael Shields; Editing by Louise Heavens)