ECONOMY

Serbia to keep NSB stake rather than sell it to EFG Eurobank

BELGRADE (Reuters) – Serbia will keep its minority stake in the National Savings Bank (NSB) for three years, rather than sell it to Greece’s EFG Eurobank, Finance Minister Mladjan Dinkic said late on Wednesday. EFG, Greece’s third-biggest lender by assets, offered this month to buy between a 40.7 percent and 90.2 percent stake in NSB, pricing each share at 627,541 dinars or 7,433 euros. The bid closes September 26. The maximum 90 percent stake would cost 70.8 million euros. «For the time being, the Ministry of Finance wants the state to keep its 37 percent stake (in NSB),» Dinkic said. «We will open talks with EFG on a three-year put option, not because we think the price is not right, but because we believe that the state can earn more by keeping its stake in the bank which develops,» he added. The government was scheduled to adopt that decision at its session yesterday, Dinkic told B92 television. The 37 percent state stake refers to cumulative equity ownership Belgrade holds directly or indirectly through other shareholders, including state-owned banks and an insurer. EFG entered the Serbian market in 2003 by acquiring Post Banka and building it up to a network of 20 branches. Its Guernsey-based arm Berberis Investment Ltd began buying shares in NSB on the Belgrade Stock Exchange in May and has built up a 10 percent stake. 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.