Eurobank raises offer for stake in Serb bank

BELGRADE (Reuters) – Serbia said yesterday that Greece’s EFG Eurobank had raised its offer price for the state’s minority stake in the National Savings Bank (NSB), which Eurobank already controls. Eurobank holds around 63 percent of the bank, which handles the repayment of $4 billion (3.3 billion euros) worth of savings frozen in the early 1990s. In October, Belgrade had rejected Eurobank’s initial offer for the state’s 37 percent stake as «shockingly low.» «Eurobank has now improved its offer by 40 percent,» Finance Minister Mladjan Dinkic said. «In the next few days the state will decide whether to accept it.» The government had set up NSB to boost confidence in the banking sector in early 2002, days after it closed four big, debt-laden banks. Dinkic said in October the veto right was vital to make sure that the Greek management continued to service the repayment of the frozen savings, for which the bank receives cash from the state and passes it on to clients. Eurobank now needs to «provide firm guarantees that it would continue to service the repayment,» the government said. Sources familiar with the planned transaction say it should be completed within a fortnight, with the government cashing in «at least 30 million euros» for its stake. Back in September Eurobank paid 41.5 million euros for a 52.5 percent stake, valuing the Serbian bank’s shares at 7,433 euros. The transaction will leave the state of Serbia with a «token percentage» stake in a new merged bank, sources said.