ECONOMY

Serb banks’ privatization nearing end

BELGRADE (Reuters) – Serbia said yesterday it expected to receive binding offers for controlling stakes in state-owned banks Novosadska and Continental early next month. The government is selling at least 82 percent of Novosadska Banka and 98 percent in Continental Banka. «On May 4, the deadline is running out for bidders to submit binding offers for Novosadska Banka,» Finance Minister Mladjan Dinkic told a news conference. Dinkic said Austria’s Erste Bank, Italy’s Unicredito and EFG Eurobank of Greece were the most serious bidders for Novosadska, whose capital stood at $32.8 million at the end of 2004 with assets at $165 million. On May 9, binding bids are expected from Slovenia’s Nova Ljubljanska Banka and EFG Eurobank for Continental Banka, with assets reported at $116.8 million and capital at $35.6 million at the end of 2004. Serbia’s banks posted robust growth in 2004 when their total assets rose by 41 percent to 6.5 billion euros and were expected to grow by a further 30 percent this year. Earlier this year, the sector witnessed two major privatizations with Greece’s Alpha Bank and Italy’s Banca Intesa gaining control of two of the biggest Serbian banks, Jubanka and Delta, respectively.