September 18, 2007 / 11:17 AM / 11 years ago

UPDATE 1-Bulgaria's EIBank in talks with suitors-sources

(Updates with EIBank shares rise)

SOFIA, Sept 18 (Reuters) - Bulgaria’s Economic and Investment Bank (EIBank) BRIBS.BB is in talks with two European bidders to sell a majority stake, sources familiar with the process said on Tuesday.

The report of the bank sale lifted its shares on the Bulgarian Stock Exchange by 11.5 percent, traders said.

Spain’s largest unlisted savings bank, La Caixa, and Belgian banking and insurance group KBC (KBC.BR) have placed bids for the country’s ninth largest bank in terms of assets, one source who asked for anonymity told Reuters.

“La Caixa and KBC have placed their bids. Talks are now being held. The winner is likely to be chosen this or next week,” the source said.

Another source familiar with the talks said the strategic investor could be picked as early as Wednesday.

A spokesman at EIBank declined to comment.

The sources declined to comment on the amount of the deal.

The bank’s shares closed at 145 levs per share on Tuesday, up from 130 levs a day earlier in a thin trade, bringing its market capitalisation to 1.0 billion levs ($708.7 million).

Icelandic billionaire Thor Bjorgolfsson has 48.6 percent in the bank through Novator Finance Bulgaria, and two Bulgarians have 24.3 percent each. The remaining 2.8 percent is floated at the Bulgarian stock exchange.

EIBank’s total assets stood at 1.4 billion levs ($992.9 million) at the end of June, official data showed. Its net profit dropped to 16.9 million levs in the first half of the year, from 21.3 million in the same period a year earlier.

((Reporting by Tsvetelia Ilieva; editing by Paul Bolding; e-mail:; tel:+ 359-2-939-97-31))

($1=1.411 Leva) Keywords: BULGARIA EIBANK

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