Piraeus Bank offers $25 mln in bid to enter Serb market

BELGRADE (Reuters) – Greece’s Piraeus Bank yesterday offered $25 million for 80 percent of Serbia’s Atlas Banka, in a move to finalize a transaction first agreed in February. The fifth-largest Greek lender by assets has launched a takeover bid through its Serbian broker Synergy Capital, offering to buy 73,192 ordinary shares and 8,742 priority convertible shares at a price of 19,296.30 dinars ($306.36). The face value of Atlas shares is 9,000 dinars. The bid will close on May 25. «The aim of the bid is to enter the Serbian market. The bidder will continue the bank’s current activity with new management,» it said in the takeover bid. Atlas, which has a 1 percent market share and a network of nine branches in three Serbian cities, reported net profit of 1.6 million euros ($2.07 million) in 2004. Its share capital stood at $14.6 million and assets at $80.5 million last year. Atlas Banka is a member of the Atlas Group, which also includes Montenegro-based Atlasmont Banka and Atlasmont privatization fund. Among Atlasmont’s shareholders are former and current NBA basketball players, the ex-Miami Heats guard Predrag Danilovic and the Los Angeles Lakers center Vlade Divac. Atlas is another small Serbian bank to have found a foreign buyer only months after the central bank unveiled plans to woo reputable strategic investors to the banking and insurance sectors. In April, France’s Credit Agricole said it was in talks to buy a 71 percent stake in the small Serbian retail bank Meridian Banka. The deal is expected to be finalized next week. Serbia’s banks posted a 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. Good growth prospects have resulted in high prices in Serbian bank privatizations so far, with foreign investors paying around three times the value of their share capital to buy majority stakes.

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