UPDATE 1-Raiffeisen chief says awaiting green light on Polish unit sale

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VIENNA, Dec 17 (Reuters) - Raiffeisen Bank International has presented a plan to Polish banking regulator KNF for the sale of its Polish unit Polbank and is awaiting approval, Chief Executive Karl Sevelda said.

RBI intends to sell Polbank as part of a restructuring plan aimed at shrinking its balance sheet and bolstering its core capital ratio. It has decided to strip out Polbank’s Swiss franc mortgage portfolio and sell the business without it.

“I am expecting offers,” Sevelda told reporters, adding that once the bank had approval from KNF it would begin the sale process. The company has received enquiries from European banks, some of which are active in Poland, he added.

Raiffeisen Polbank is Poland’s ninth biggest bank by assets, with a book value of 6 billion Polish zlotys ($1.5 billion) Its Swiss franc mortgage portfolio is one of the largest in Poland, worth an estimated 12.5 billion zlotys.

Speaking at a company event in Vienna on Thursday, Sevelda said he expected 2016 to be “a good year”, adding that RBI had no plans for any more branch closures in Russia beyond this year’s 34. He also said he hoped to return to profit in Ukraine.

“I am confident that in most regions growth will provide us with a fair wind,” he said. “In central and eastern Europe we expect robust growth, and an end to the recession in Ukraine.”

At the same event, the head of Raiffeisen Zentralbank , the unlisted majority owner of RBI, declined to comment on reports of a possible merger within the Raiffeisen group of banks. (Reporting by Alexandra Schwarz-Goerlich; writing by Francois Murphy; editing by Shadia Nasralla and Elaine Hardcastle)