January 7, 2015 / 3:20 PM / 4 years ago

Raiffeisen considers IPO of Polish unit to raise cash

WARSAW/FRANKFURT, Jan 7 (Reuters) - Austria’s Raiffeisen could list a large slice of its Polish business in an initial public offering this year to raise cash, alongside the option of selling it outright to an investor, two sources familiar with the deliberations said.

Market sources told Reuters in December Raiffeisen Bank International (RBI) was looking to sell Raiffeisen Polbank to offset what is expected to be the group’s first ever full-year loss in 2014.

Raiffeisen was already planning an IPO anyway because it is required by the Polish regulator to float at least 15 percent of its equity by mid-2016. However, the bank was now looking at an IPO this year as a way to raise funds, the two sources said.

“The package offered would be 30-40 percent rather than 15-20 to allow Vienna to get more cash since it is in need,” said one of the sources familiar with the deliberations, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“In Poland we are currently focusing on the preparation of the IPO. The size, structure and timing of the IPO are still open. The agreement with the Polish Regulator KNF foresees an IPO before middle of 2016. No decisions have been made,” RBI spokesman said.

Both the sources said the option of an IPO to raise cash — rather than just to satisfy the regulator — was favoured by the Raiffeisen Polbank local management.

Raiffeisen Polbank book value is 5.5 billion zlotys ($1.51 billion). According to one banker who is following the possible transaction, Raiffeisen is looking at a total valuation of about 2 billion euros.

The local KNF watchdog has said it does not favour big existing players in the Polish banking market taking over rivals, which could exclude the most likely buyers for Raiffeisen Polbank.

Polbank is Poland’s eight biggest lender by assets. Raiffeisen, emerging Europe’s second largest lender, bought Polbank from Greece’s EFG Eurobank for 460 million euros ($546 million) in 2012.

Polish banks are, on average, quoted at around 1.8 times their book value. The Raiffeisen unit is profitable, but its potential market value is dragged down by a return on equity lower than its peers.

Vienna-based Raiffeisen has said its 2014 loss will be 500 million euros. Its results were hit by turbulence in Ukraine and by levies imposed by Hungary. ($1 = 3.6282 zlotys) (1 euro = $1.1821) (Additional reporting by Angelika Gruber in Vienna; editing by Keith Weir)

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