BELGRADE (Reuters) – France’s Credit Agricole (CASA) yesterday launched a bid to acquire the remaining 29 percent stake in Serbia’s Meridian Banka, offering to pay 66.2 million euros. In an offer published as a full-page advertisement in Serbian daily Politika, Credit Agricole offered to buy 530,025 shares at 10,178 dinars (124.89 euros) per share. The bid, which closes on September 7, values Meridian Banka at 228 million euros. «The bid for Meridian has been part of Credit Agricole’s original plans for the bank,» Bozidar Djelic, who runs Credit Agricole’s Southeast European operations, told Reuters. «We aim at a 100 percent control of Meridian Banka. We can then start to develop our business and launch bank insurance, which is Credit Agricole’s speciality,» Djelic said. Credit Agricole bought 71 percent of Meridian Banka for 34 million euros in May 2005 as part of its push into the region. In 2005, Meridian held a 2 percent market share in Serbia. «Since 2005, we have managed to triple our market share and the assets of the bank grew fourfold,» Djelic said. Once the acquisition of Meridian is over, Credit Agricole will boost cooperation among its units in Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, Albania and Serbia, he said. «We particularly want to strengthen cooperation between Meridian and Emporiki Bank (in Greece).» Earlier this week CASA completed the purchase of a 71.97 percent stake in Emporiki for 25 euros per share, valuing the bank at 3.3 billion euros.