KBC to sell Antwerp Diamond Bank, ending disposal process

BRUSSELS Thu Dec 19, 2013 1:23pm EST

A cyclist rides past Antwerp's Diamond Bourse September 3, 2011. REUTERS/Thierry Roge

A cyclist rides past Antwerp's Diamond Bourse September 3, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Thierry Roge

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Belgian financial group KBC said on Thursday it would sell Antwerp Diamond Bank to a Chinese investor, the final unit it agreed to sell for approval of a 7 billion euro ($9.5 billion aid package it received at the height of the financial crisis.

KBC (KBC.BR) gave no financial details about the sale to Yinren Group, but said the disposal would free up 100 million euros of capital, improving its tier one ratio by about 0.2 percent.

Because of its niche position in the banking world, selling Antwerp Diamond bank was a difficult task for the group.

While KBC also announced the completion of the sale of its Serbian unit on Thursday, it still has to close the sale of its German unit KBC Deutschland. That, together with the finalization of the sale of Antwerp Diamond Bank, will bring to an end a long process of selling various units.

Since EU regulators told the bank to sell non-core assets in exchange for the state aid that Belgian federal and regional governments awarded it in 2008, KBC disposed of a string of units, reducing its risk-weighted assets by 42 percent.

The company now focuses on its units in Belgium, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia and Bulgaria.

It also still has a portfolio of 16 billion euros ($22 billion) in mortgages at its Irish unit.

KBC has also made steady progress paying back its state aid, having already returned all of what it owed to the Belgian federal government, and a large chunk of the aid received from the Flemish regional government.

At the end of the third quarter, it still had 2.33 billion euros of state aid outstanding to the region of Flanders.

(Reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek, editing by Robin Emmott)

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