VIENNA, April 17 Nationalised Austrian lender
Hypo Alpe Adria may sell its Balkans banking network
this year, ahead of the mid-2015 deadline set by the European
Commission in return for approving state aid for the loss-making
lender, it said on Thursday.
Hypo sees its southeastern Europe (SEE) network as its prime
asset as it winds down other businesses via a "bad bank". The
SEE network comprises banks and leasing operations in Slovenia,
Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Montenegro.
Deutsche Bank is running the sale.
"The privatisation process begun in May 2012 has at the turn
of the year entered a phase that makes closing the sale to a
financial or strategic investor this year appear realistic," it
said in a statement ahead of its results news conference.
Hypo said late on Wednesday its 2013 group loss ballooned to
1.86 billion euros ($2.57 billion), as forecast last week.
Hiving off non-performing assets into its own internal "bad
bank" reduced the SEE network's total assets to 8.5 billion
euros from 10.1 billion in 2012, while its non-performing loan
ratio fell to 12.3 percent from 15.0 percent a year earlier.
The unit's operating profit before risk provisions more than
halved to 48.3 million euros in what it called tough markets
that showed no signs of substantial improvement in 2014.
Hypo said deposits at home and abroad had suffered in the
fourth quarter as a result of the public debate about whether to
let the group go bust as a potential way to get creditors to
help pay for its wind-down costs.
The government finally ended months of uncertainty in March
by deciding to adopt a bad-bank model that will swell state debt
and deficits this year.
After swallowing more than 5.5 billion euros in state aid
since 2008 - including a 750 million-euro capital shot approved
this month - Hypo posted a tier 1 capital ratio of 9.8 percent
of risk-weighted assets, up from 8.6 percent a year earlier.
It has said it will need around 700 million euros more to
cope with writedowns and maintain minimum capital levels until
its transfers around 18 billion euros worth of assets into the
bad bank supposed to be set up by September.
($1 = 0.7243 Euros)
(Reporting by Michael Shields; Editing by Georgina Prodhan)