UPDATE 1-Bulgaria's Fibank aims to integrate Unionbank by March 1

Tue Feb 18, 2014 10:06am EST

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(Adds date for integration of Unionbank)

SOFIA Feb 18 (Reuters) - Bulgaria's First Investment Bank (Fibank) plans to complete the takeover of smaller peer MKB Unionbank and integrate it by March 1, it said on Tuesday, after the central bank gave a green light for the deal.

Fibank is the Balkan country's third-largest lender by assets and one of the few Bulgarian banks that are not foreign-owned.

"Now that we have the central bank nod, we are looking forward to being one bank from March 1," the bank's spokesman said.

Fibank bought MKB Unionbank from Germany's Bayerische Landesbank (BayernLB) last October for 46.94 million levs ($32.89 million). Once the takeover is completed, the bank's combined assets will exceed 8.5 billion levs.

In 2012, the European Commission ordered BayernLB to restructure and sell some businesses as a precondition for approving state aid for the German regional lender. BayernLB ran into trouble in 2008 after risky investments turned sour.

Fibank's assets stood at 7.45 billion levs ($5.22 billion) at the end of 2013 and MKB Unionbank's total assets amounted to 1.45 billion levs, data showed.

The central bank said the approval for the merger can be contested within 14 days. ($1 = 1.4274 Bulgarian levs) (Reporting by Angel Krasimirov and Tsvetelia Tsolova; editing by Pravin Char and Tom Pfeiffer)

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