Hypo Austria aims to build bridges with India
VIENNA Dec 19 (Reuters) - Hypo Alpe Adria AG, the domestic banking unit of Austrian nationalised lender Hypo Alpe Adria International just sold to a British-Indian investor, said it aims to build bridges to develop business between Europe and India.
The bank said it would strengthen its existing business in retail banking and the financing of public projects in its home province of Carinthia, but also aimed to become a trade bank for European exporters to India and Indian firms in Europe.
The 66 million-euro ($91 million) sale is so far the only successful disposal of a unit of Hypo Alpe Adria International, which is committed to a wind-down or sale of its operations in the Balkans and Italy by an agreement with the European Union.
Hypo Alpe Adria AG said its acquisition by Anadi Financial Holdings closed on Thursday, following the agreement of German landesbank BayernLB - a former owner of Hypo Alpe Adria International - to waive its veto.
"I am very pleased that the deal is finally done," said Sanjeev Kanoria, a London-based investor who set up the Anadi holding company to make the Austrian acquisition, and whose brothers run India's Srei infrastructure finance.
Hypo Alpe Adria International has received 4.8 billion euros so far in aid from the Austrian government, after driving itself to the brink of insolvency by using guarantees from Carinthia to fuel unbridled expansion abroad.
The bank named Martin Czurda, a 54-year-old Austrian banker who previously held senior positions at Raiffeisen Zentralbank and Amsterdam Trade Bank, as its new chief executive.
"For the first time in years, we can work free of the problems of the Hypo Alpe Adria group and be more active for our customers," Czurda said. "I believe the employees have been freed from a rather large burden."
He said the bank had no ambitions to grow at its previous break-neck speed. "We will in no circumstances repeat the mistakes of the past," he told a news conference. "We will grow our balance sheet by 10 or 15 percent per year, maximum."
Czurda and Kanoria said they saw potential initially in helping to finance exports of machinery and commodities to India from Austria and elsewhere in Europe.
Kanoria, a surgeon who runs a healthcare group in Britain, is the designated head of the bank's supervisory board and said he planned to be in Austria once a month. "I'll be very involved," he said.
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