ECONOMY

Serbia opens bank privatization round

BELGRADE (Reuters) – Serbia said yesterday it would launch a tender on May 28 to sell a majority stake in Jubanka, opening the first of three bank privatizations planned for this year. «The tender for Jubanka will be published in the Financial Times on May 28. Bidders will have until a June 15 deadline to submit their offers,» the central bank’s governor, Radovan Jelasic, told Reuters on the sidelines of an investor forum. Jubanka was among 16 banks that the State nationalized in 2002, as were fellow privatization candidates Novosadska and Continental Banka. At the time, the State held 85.13 percent equity in Jubanka, 85.06 percent in Continental Banka and 55.8 percent in Novosadska Banka. The banks will be privatized with the help of BNP Paribas as financial adviser. Jelasic said Germany’s HVB Group, Italy’s Banca Intesa and Greece’s Bank of Piraeus SA were among interested buyers of Jubanka. Borisav Djokic, general manager of Jubanka, said earlier yesterday that five foreign banks were interested in Jubanka, whose assets were estimated at 110 million euros ($131.8 million). He would not disclose the names of the banks. The sale of the three is part of further bank sector reform agreed upon with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. The government did not wish to offer all three for sale at once, but rather in stages, with the other two tenders scheduled for September and the end of 2004. Italian bank UniCredito said on Tuesday it was interested in obtaining a stake in Novosadska Banka as part of its push into Eastern Europe. Continental Banka is widely expected to go to Slovenia’s Nova Ljubljanska Banka, which already holds a stake in the bank. In its preliminary estimate of bank privatization receipts, the State expects to earn a total of some 200 million euros.