| WARSAW, July 9
WARSAW, July 9 ING Groep and BNP
Paribas are interested in buying Polish bank BGZ
if parent Rabobank puts it up for sale, two
sources said, in a deal that would mark further consolidation in
the country's banking sector.
Foreign banks control most of the Polish banking sector, but
several are seeking to pull out of the country to boost capital
positions hit by the global economic crisis.
Those remaining are using such opportunities to strengthen
their positions in the sector, which for years has been under
strict regulator supervision and has been relatively healthy in
comparison with those of many other European nations.
Rabobank, the Netherlands' largest retail bank, said last
month it was "looking at strategic options" for its mid-sized
Polish subsidiary after local media reported it may sell the
unit this year in a deal that could be worth about 2.8 billion
zlotys ($828 million).
"ING and BNP are the ones to watch. They are the most
interested in BGZ," a legal source in the industry said.
A banking source said: "ING has been struggling to persuade
Amsterdam and Brussels to lift the investment ban put on them in
relation to the state aid they received. For them, BGZ would
give them the scale they need to reach third position in the
Polish banking sector in terms of assets."
ING and BNP declined to comment on the matter. Both have
Polish outlets - ING Bank Slaski and BNP Paribas Bank
ING was bailed out by the Dutch state in 2008. The European
Commission has ordered several banks that took state aid to sell
assets, and also imposed restrictions on some that prevents them
paying dividends, offering market-leading rates of interest or
European Commission competition policy spokesman Antoine
Colombani also declined to comment, but said ING's restructuring
plan approved by the EU regulator in 2012 keeps the acquisition
ban in place until 2015 unless the bank can prove buying a rival
is key to preserving financial stability or market competition.
BNP is one of the best-capitalised banks in Europe with a 10
percent Tier 1 capital ratio, in line with Swiss UBS and ahead
of domestic peers Societe Generale and
semi-cooperative Credit Agricole.
Western banks entered Poland in the mid 1990s after the
country overturned communism and encouraged them to invest in
ailing Polish banks.
In recent years, Commerzbank's BRE Bank,
Millennium BCP's Bank Millennium and
UniCredit's Bank Pekao have all been tipped
to be put up for sale. But few deals have actually materialised.
Banco Santander last year trumped Poland's largest
bank PKO BP to buy Bank Zachodni WBK and
merged it with KBC's Kredyt Bank.
State-controlled giant PKO fought back last month when it
snatched Swedish Nordea's Polish business for
2.83 billion zlotys.
($1 = 3.3821 Polish zlotys)
($1 = 0.7773 euros)
(Writing by Adrian Krajewski; Additional reporting by Sara Webb
in Amsterdam, Foo Yun Chee in Brussels, Laurent Lionel and
Christian Plumb in Paris; Editing by Pravin Char)