WARSAW (Reuters) - UniCredit’s (CRDI.MI) Polish unit Pekao PEO.WA will keep an eye on opportunities to buy local rivals and expand, the head of the Italian bank said, brushing off concerns that the regulator could make tie-ups difficult.
Pekao, whose capital adequacy ratio stands at a comfortable 19.9 percent, had signaled in the past it could use its funds to expand in Poland, which many analysts say remains ripe for consolidation.
But last month, the head of Poland’s financial watchdog said he saw little room for further consolidation, raising concerns he could make further tie-ups between banks - mostly in foreign hands - more difficult for Pekao and others.
“We don’t have the feeling that the regulator is against Pekao’s growth,” UniCredit Chief Executive Federico Ghizzoni told reporters. “We have very good relations with Polish authorities and with the regulator.”
“We are focused on organic growth. But we’re carefully watching markets and if we see opportunities, we will evaluate them,” he added.
Raising pressure on Pekao, Poland’s No.2 lender, its larger state-controlled rival PKO PKO.WA agreed last month to buy the local assets of Swedish Nordea (NDA.ST) for $850 million.
Sources told Reuters Pekao was among the bidders for Nordea’s Polish assets. Pekao declined to comment on the report.
Last week, Dutch bank Rabobank RABO.UL said it was looking at strategic options for its Polish subsidiary BGZ BGZ.WA, valued at some $850 million by the markets, although Pekao has not been named among the potential buyers by local media.
Ghizzoni also said UniCredit would work on raising its revenue, which was flat last year when the bank was focused on boosting its capital position. ($1 = 3.3255 Polish zlotys)
Writing by Chris Borowski; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle