Smooth privatization for BCR

BUCHAREST (Reuters) – The sale of Romania’s biggest bank, Banca Comerciala Romana (BCR), is likely to go smoothly and be finalized this year, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), an important BCR shareholder, said on Friday. Romania said on Thursday it would sell at least 50 percent plus one share in BCR, which accounts for about 26 percent of the country’s bank assets and whose privatization to a strategic investor failed in 2003 due to a lack of bidders. «The market is very different now; I think it’s a good time,» EBRD Director for Financial Institutions Kurt Geiger told Reuters in a phone interview from London. «The bank is in better shape and I think this is the time to move on the privatization.» In 2003, Romania sold 25 percent plus two shares in BCR to the EBRD and the World Bank’s investment arm, the IFC, for $222 million under an agreement with the International Monetary Fund, and had pledged to sell a controlling stake in the bank to a strategic investor by 2006. «It was our plan at the beginning that within about two years of us coming in we would privatize and we are ahead of this plan,» Geiger said. Privatization agency AVAS has said it plans to publish the privatization announcement for BCR, which is targeting a net profit of 165 million euros ($207.4 million) this year, at the beginning of next month.