Bloomberg News

KBC Said to Seek Offers of $3.6 Billion for Polish Units

June 29, 2011

(Updates with Erste, Vienna Insurance comment in penultimate paragraph.)

June 29 (Bloomberg) -- KBC Groep NV, Belgium’s biggest bank and insurer by market value, is seeking offers of about 2.5 billion euros ($3.6 billion) for its stake in Poland’s Kredyt Bank SA and insurance unit Warta SA, two people with knowledge of the matter said.

The Brussels-based company, which is kicking off a first round of bidding, may also sell the business in parts, one of the people said, declining to be identified because the discussions are confidential. No decision has been made on the sale and a timetable will depend on market conditions, the people said.

KBC, the recipient of 7 billion euros in Belgian government rescue funds, is disposing of units to repay the state and gain European Union approval for the bailout. The company has put its private bank up for sale again, after an agreement to sell it to Hinduja Group was blocked by the Luxembourg regulator, and has other units scheduled for divestment.

“KBC is currently busy implementing the strategic plan it has submitted to the European Commission,” said KBC spokeswoman Viviane Huybrecht in Brussels. “We do not wish to comment on rumors.”

Erste, Vienna Insurance

KBC has an 80 percent stake in Warsaw-based Kredyt Bank, data compiled by Bloomberg show, valued at about 3.7 billion zloty ($1.3 billion), based on the company’s current market capitalization. Warta has 6,000 salespeople across Poland and is one of the largest insurance companies in the country, according to its website, offering auto, property, personal and travel insurance.

Vienna Insurance Group, eastern Europe’s biggest insurer, would look at KBC’s Warta if it was being sold, Chief Executive Officer Guenter Geyer told reporters in May. Erste Group Bank AG, eastern Europe’s second-biggest lender, has Poland “on its list” and will seize any suitable opportunity if it arises, CEO Andreas Treichl said last month.

Erste isn’t interested in KBC’s stake in Kredyt Bank, Hana Cygonkova, a spokeswoman for the Vienna-based bank, said by e- mail. “We aren’t aware of Warta being sold, but if it is we will look at it,” Alexander Jedlicka, a spokesman for Vienna Insurance, said by phone.

Poland’s banking market is one of the most sought-after in the former Communist part of Europe. Banco Santander SA, Spain’s biggest bank, agreed to buy the country’s fifth-biggest lender, Bank Zachodni WBK SA, from Allied Irish Banks Plc for 2.9 billion euros in September. Raiffeisen Bank International AG, eastern Europe’s third biggest lender, in February agreed to buy EFG Eurobank Ergasias SA’s Polish business for 490 million euros in a transaction that will make it the country’s sixth-largest player.

--With assistance from Boris Groendahl and Zoe Schneeweiss in Vienna. Editors: Frank Connelly, Steve Bailey

To contact the reporters on this story: Jacqueline Simmons in Paris at jackiem@bloomberg.net; Ambereen Choudhury in London at achoudhury@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Edward Evans at eevans3@bloomberg.net


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