August 1, 2018 / 5:41 PM / in 10 months

SocGen's asset sales spree spreads to Africa, Eastern Europe-sources

* SocGen to sell banks in Albania, Bulgaria, South Africa

* Sales follow sale in Belgium earlier this week

* SocGen looking at assets up for sale elsewhere

By Tsvetelia Tsolova and Tiisetso Motsoeneng

SOFIA/JOHANNESBURG, Aug 1 (Reuters) - French bank Societe Generale will shortly complete the sale of banks in South Africa, Albania and Bulgaria, according to several sources close to the processes, as it exits non-core markets under an asset sales programme announced last year.

The French lender is close to sealing deals to sell two small retail banks in Albania and Bulgaria to Hungary-based OTP Bank, two sources said. It is also close to selling its unit that provides custodian services in South Africa to Absa Group, two further sources said.

Those sales follow the disposal of its Belgian private bank unit to ABN AMRO earlier this week.

Societe Generale, OTP Bank and Absa declined to comment.

The three operations are part of the strategy unveiled by the French lender’s Chief Executive Frederic Oudea in late 2017. He said the bank intended to rejig its footprint by exiting from countries or businesses where it lacked critical size and consolidating its positions where it is already strong. Oudea said then the bank was ready to offload units handling together as much as 5 percent of its weighted assets, or close to 17.5 billion euros ($20.41 billion).

Societe Generale Expressbank is Bulgaria’s seventh largest bank with assets of 6.7 billion levs ($4 billion) as of June, according to the local central bank. The Belgian private bank holds about 6 billion euros in assets, according to ABN AMRO.

As any cross-border merger between large European banks is all but impossible until banking union becomes a reality, Oudea recently said each European bank must now look at its activities to identify the businesses where it does not have the size to be competitive and sell those businesses.

Societe Generale, which is due to release second quarter earnings on Thursday, wants to be ready to buy attractive assets put up for sale, he added.

The bank last month bought the market activities of German bank Commerzbank . Oudea and his team had identified Germany as a market where they seek to expand.

“We keep on investing, like we did with the Commerzbank activities because in this European banking market, some will keep on exiting from some businesses and there will be a kind of consolidation,” he said in mid July.

Banking sources elsewhere have said the French bank is also seeking to dispose of its banks in Macedonia, Moldova, Poland and Serbia.

($1 = 0.8573 euros)

$1 = 1.6765 leva Reporting by Inti Landauro, Tiisetso Motsoeneng and Tsvetalia Tsolova Editing by Alexandra Hudson

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