January 29, 2014 / 10:41 AM / 4 years ago

UPDATE 1-Buyer for Bulgarian pension fund Doverie backs out

* United Capital withdrew from deal in December - Vienna

* Mystery around buyer had triggered resistance in Bulgaria

* Woes in Romania, Italy hit 2013 group results

VIENNA, Jan 29 (Reuters) - The mysterious buyer for Bulgaria’s largest private pension fund withdrew from the deal last month, seller Vienna Insurance Group said on Wednesday, adding it was now in no rush to divest the profitable Doverie business.

The selected buyer, UK-registered company United Capital, had said in July it planned to file soon for regulatory approvals with Bulgarian authorities.

But the lack of public information about the buyer had raised concerns in Bulgaria, and the ruling Socialists had urged the financial regulator to halt the deal.

“It is correct that the potential buyer decided in December to withdraw. That was not envisioned in the contract,” Vienna Insurance Chief Executive Peter Hagen told a news conference for preliminary 2013 results at emerging Europe’s biggest insurer.

He said Doverie, which would have a record 2013 profit of nearly 8 million euros, was not a strategic fit and Vienna would review any other good offers it gets for the business.

Vienna last year agreed to sell its 92.6 percent stake in Doverie to United Capital, which had no stock market listing, website, or phone number.

The Austrian group released results ahead of schedule on Tuesday night, reporting pretax profit dropped a bigger than expected 40 percent to around 350 million euros ($478 million) due to problems in Italy and Romania.

Nevertheless, it proposed raising its dividend by 10 cents a share to 1.30 euros, more than analysts had expected.

Berenberg analyst Sami Taipalus called the results “a small disappointment”. Vienna’s stock was down 1.6 percent to 36.11 euros at 1018 GMT, while the Stoxx European insurance index was up 0.5 percent.

Hagen said the extent of writedowns the firm would book for its Romania business in the fourth quarter were still unclear, but added the operation there should return to profit this year.

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