Societe Generale close to sale of Bulgarian bank to Hungary's OTP

SOFIA (Reuters) - French bank Societe Generale is in final talks to sell its Bulgarian unit to Hungary’s OTP Bank and is likely to announce the deal this month, two sources familiar with the process said.

The French lender is also expected to offload its unit in Albania to OTP, the sources said, as part of its strategy to dispose of units that either lack critical size or potential for synergies within the group.

European banks are restructuring their assets as they seek to strengthen in markets where they see potential growth, while withdrawing from markets deemed too small to compete.

SocGen is also exploring the sale of its Polish unit Eurobank, investment bankers said last month, and on Monday the French bank announced the sale of its private banking unit in Belgium to ABN AMRO.

“The deal (in Bulgaria) has been largely agreed. The central bank has already held a preliminary meeting with DSK Bank (OTP’s Bulgarian unit) over it,” one source said.

Societe Generale and OTP declined to comment.

“The deal for Bulgaria is expected to be announced in August, probably by the end of this week,” a second source said, adding that Societe Generale was also close to selling its small unit in Albania to OTP.

Societe Generale Expressbank is Bulgaria’s seventh largest bank with assets of 6.7 billion levs (£3.04 billion) as of June, central bank data showed.

In March, Bulgarian financial weekly Capital, citing unnamed sources, said that Societe Generale also planned to exit the markets in Serbia, Macedonia, Moldova and Montenegro and was holding talks with OTP and private equity firm Apollo Global Management. Apollo has declined to comment.

Since then, the sale of the SocGen’s Montenegro unit has been put off for the time being, mainly due to political issues, two sources familiar with the talks said.

The sources declined to comment on the value of the deal in Bulgaria, but one said it was likely to be in line with the sale of National Bank of Greece’s Bulgarian unit to Belgium’s KBC Group last year, which equalled 1.1 times the unit’s total equity.

Expressbank’s total equity stood at 723 million levs at the end of June, central bank data showed.

OTP controls Bulgaria’s second largest lender, DSK Bank, and the deal, pending regulatory approvals, is likely to boost its market share in terms of assets to about 19 percent, close or even above that of top Bulgarian lender Unicredit Bulbank.

Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova, additional reporting by Marton Dunai in Budapest and Inti Landauro in Paris and Benet Koleka in Tirana; Editing by Jason Neely and Susan Fenton