Eurobank goes for Serb Savings Bank

BELGRADE (Reuters) – Greece’s third biggest lender by assets EFG Eurobank offered yesterday to pay 70.8 million euros ($89 million) for a 90 percent stake in Serb National Savings Bank, pricing it at five times its book value. EFG Eurobank offered to buy at least 40.73 percent equity or a maximum 90.2254 percent stake in the National Savings Bank (NSB), pricing each share at 627,540.8 dinars or 7,433 euros. The bid closes September 26. «EFG Eurobank sees Serbia as strategically important for the development of its business in southeast Europe,» it said in the offer, launched through Belgrade brokers Synergy Capital. It said it would launch new products and services to expand the activities of the National Savings Bank, focusing on retail clients and small and medium-sized enterprises. NSB has a network of 70 branches in Serbia and its assets totalled 122 million euros at end-June. EFG entered the Serbian market in 2003 by acquiring small bank Post Banka, building it up to a network of 20 branches. It has since tried to widen its market share, but failed in two tenders to buy Novosadska and Continental banks. EFG’s Guernsey-based arm Berberis Investment Ltd started buying shares in the National Savings Bank on the Belgrade Stock Exchange in May and has built up a 10 percent stake in NSB since. The National Savings Bank – Nacionalna Stedionica – was set up to boost confidence in the banking sector in early 2002, days after the state closed four big, debt-laden banks. It took over some of the premises and workers of the closed banks. The state currently has under 30 percent of NSB and is likely to keep a 10 percent stake. As in other Serb banks, some of NSB’s stakeholders are offshore firms. The central bank feels these often obscure funds do not inspire confidence as shareholders and wants to see them replaced by investors with know-how and a good track record.