ECONOMY

Five suitors for last of Bulgarian state banks

SOFIA (Reuters) – Bulgaria said yesterday five potential candidates had so far officially expressed interest in its sale of up to 100 percent of DSK Bank, the Balkan state’s last state-owned bank. Neli Kordovska, head of the Bank Consolidation Company (BCC) which handles the privatization of state banks, told Reuters the agency had been contacted by five potential bidders, four of which had already received DSK’s financial results as of September 2002. Kordovska declined to name the potential buyers and added they would be announced after January 27, when a deadline expires for submitting non-binding offers for Bulgaria’s second-largest bank by assets. Industry sources told Reuters the potential candidates included Hungary’s OTP Bank, Austria’s Erste Bank, France’s Eulia and two Greek banks. Later yesterday, OTP spokeswoman Annamaria Emodi confirmed the bank was among the candidates: «OTP Bank maintains its earlier interest in DSK.» Other sources said the likely Greek candidates might include EFG Eurobank Ergasias, Piraeus Bank or Commercial Bank of Greece. Bulgaria offered at least 80 percent of DSK in December and said it hoped for a deal in April. The reformist government, which took over in July 2001, has stepped up privatization of remaining state assets to raise cash and revamp Bulgaria’s post-communist economy as it prepares to become a European Union member in 2007. A senior government official indicated late last year that Bulgaria hoped to get around 200 million euros ($209.7 million) for at least 80 percent of DSK, but the BCC declined to comment on the price. DSK reported a net profit of 24.9 million levs ($13.4 million) in the first half of 2002, up from 11.12 million levs in the same period of 2001, central bank data showed. More recent results were not immediately available. The bank has said it expected to nearly double its 2002 net profit from 23.984 million levs net in 2001. It ranked second among Bulgaria’s 35 banks and branches of foreign banks at end-November 2002, when the sector’s assets totalled 12.1 billion levs, the central bank said. DSK’s assets stood at 1.63 billion levs at the end of June.