State-run banks should look at mBank: Polish finance minister

FILE PHOTO: A logo of mBank, Poland's fourth-largest lender by assets, is pictured on the bank headquarters in Warsaw, Poland April 28, 2016. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel/File Photo

WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland's Finance Minister Jerzy Kwiecinski said on Friday it would be good if state-run financial institutions could look into a possible takeover of mBank MBK.WA, the country's fourth largest lender by assets.

Commerzbank is sounding out potential buyers for its stake in mBank ahead of a formal sale process which is expected to launch in the coming months. The 69.3% stake is worth about $2.9 billion.

“I’m saying very clearly that when such a thing happens on the market... then Polish financial institutions should be interested,” Kwiecinski told reporters.

Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party has tightened control over the country’s banking sector and signaled a desire to increase domestic ownership.

The state and Polish investors control 59.2% of the local banking market following the state's purchase in 2017 of Pekao SA from UniCredit. CRDI.MI

Analysts and Polish bank CEOs have predicted more consolidation among the country’s banks, where low interest rates are making it tough for smaller players to compete.

Analysts have said that the mBank deal will potentially be attractive to foreign banks that already have a presence in Poland, such as Santander SAN.MC, ING INGA.AS, BCP BCP.LS, and BNP Paribas BNPP.PA, as well as banks with no presence in Poland.

But potential foreign predators will face competition from Polish state-run institutions such as PKO BP PKO.WA, PZU PZU.WA and Pekao SA PEO.WA.

Last month, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said he was in favor of increasing Polish ownership in reference to the mBank sale, but also said any decision to buy Commerzbank’s stake should be taken on business grounds.

Writing by Marcin Goclowski. Editing by Jane Merriman