BUDAPEST, April 15 Hungary's central bank will
acquire a controlling stake in interbank clearing company Giro
Zrt, further tightening its grip on the financial system.
The bank, led by an ally of Prime Minister Viktor Orban,
said in a statement on Tuesday that it would pay 9.5 billion
forints ($43 million) for a 78.1 percent stake in Giro, which
has a monopoly to clear retail and corporate transfers.
Giro is owned by 22 banks including the central bank, the
National Bank of Hungary. Giro's biggest shareholders have
agreed to sell their stake to the central bank, boosting its
stake to 86.2 percent. It has offered to buy the rest of the
Giro shares at the same price.
The central bank has boosted its influence over the banking
system since former economy minister Gyorgy Matolcsy was
appointed as its governor a year ago.
In October last year the banking watchdog PSZAF was merged
into the central bank.
As a minister, Matolcsy designed the government's unorthodox
economic policies, which leant heavily on raising bank taxes.
After Orban's Fidesz party won a second term with two-thirds
parliament majority in elections this month, the prime minister
said the victory authorised him to continue the past four years'
policies and to keep the windfall taxes on banks.
The government also wants more Hungarian ownership of the
banking system, which is currently mostly foreign-owned.
($1 = 222.1056 Hungarian Forints)
(Reporting by Sandor Peto; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)