Austria finance minister upbeat on chances for EU deal on Hypo Alpe

VIENNA Wed Jun 26, 2013 2:41pm EDT

A man leaves the office of nationalised Austrian lender Hypo Alpe Adria in Vienna March 12, 2013. REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader

A man leaves the office of nationalised Austrian lender Hypo Alpe Adria in Vienna March 12, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Heinz-Peter Bader

VIENNA (Reuters) - Austrian Finance Minister Maria Fekter is optimistic Vienna will strike a deal with the European Commission on the pace of restructuring nationalized lender Hypo Alpe Adria, she said after talks with the EU competition chief.

"I am very, very confident that we will come to a positive ending here, namely we will get more time," she told Austrian broadcaster ORF on Wednesday.

She said European Union Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia had shown understanding for the "technical problems," which Austria cited in talks in Vienna on Tuesday.

"More time is not a solution," Almunia had told ORF on Tuesday, adding that he wanted to resolve the row quickly.

"We expect to receive the restructuring plan from the Austrian authorities in the new few days and we expect that this restructuring plan will enable us to finally take a decision rapidly," Almunia's spokesman told reporters in Brussels.

Almunia in March said Hypo HAABI.UL faced possible closure for failing to adequately reorganize.

The Commission has been pressing Hypo to break itself up by year-end or return more than 2 billion euros ($2.6 billion) of state aid it had received since Austria took it over in 2009.

Hypo's revamp took a step forward last month with an agreement to sell its domestic business to London-based investor Sanjeev Kanoria for 65.5 million euros.

Hypo also aims to close a banking unit in Italy and sell its Balkan banking network while winding down non-core assets.

The bank, pushed to the brink of insolvency by a decade of unbridled expansion, has pleaded for more time for its restructuring because Europe's weak economic climate makes it difficult to sell business units.

Austria has been concerned that rushing the sales could hurt state finances.

($1 = 0.7649 Euro)

(Reporting by Michael Shields; editing by David Cowell, Mark Potter, G Crosse)

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