Belgian KBC pulls out of Slovenia's largest bank NLB

28th December 2012, Comments 0 comments

Bailed-out Belgian banking and insurance company KBC is pulling out of Slovenia's Nova Ljubljanska Banka (NLB) and will sell its 22-percent stake back to the state, Slovenia's finance ministry said Friday.

"KBC and Slovenia have agreed the sale of KBC's 22-percent stake in NLB," the ministry said in a statement.

The 2.7-million-euro ($3.6-million) deal includes all shares owned by the Belgian company and was in accordance with KBC's strategic programme agreed in 2009 with the European Commission, it added.

KBC, which first invested in NLB in 2002 by acquiring a 34-percent stake, is being forced to divest assets under the Commission's oversight after being bailed out by the Belgian government during the 2007-2009 global financial crisis.

Slovenian Finance Minister Janez Sustersic said Friday that KBC had agreed to the deal under time pressure and that this meant "great losses" for the Belgian group, which has invested some 530 million euros in NLB since 2002.

KBC had pledged to the EU that it would sell its stake in the troubled NLB by year-end "but due to their small stake and little control over the bank they found no buyer and offered it to us," Sustersic told a news conference.

The transfer will be carried out at the beginning of 2013 and the purchase "will allow a more efficient process of looking for a new long-term partner for NLB," according to the ministry.

With the newly acquired shares from KBC, Slovenia will now hold "around 86 percent" of NLB, Sustersic added.

The agreed price of one euro per KBC share "does not reflect the value of the bank but the result of negotiations," he noted.

Last month, Sustersic had suggested that the government sell its stake in NLB to a foreign investor. But the junior coalition partner, the Slovenian People's Party (SLS), opposed the move, requesting that the state keep 25 percent.

A so-called "bad bank" could now take over NLB's bad loans in the first half of next year, paving the way for a new investor to be found by the end of 2013, the finance minister said Friday.

Parliament approved in October a bill setting up a "bad bank" to take over large volumes of bad debt held by state-owned banks that have raised fears the country may need a bailout.

© 2012 AFP

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