Several European banks bid for majority stake in Bulgaria’s DZI

SOFIA (Reuters) – The majority owner of Bulgaria’s DZI Bank said yesterday it had received several offers from European banks to acquire its stake in the bank. The bank has a market capitalization of 271 million levs (139.3 million euros). DZI Financial Group, which directly controls 50.09 percent in DZI Bank as well as about 70 percent in total through related interests, said it had asked the Bulgarian Stock Exchange to suspend trading in the bank for 30 days until it decides how to proceed with the sale. It declined to name the bidders or detail the offers. «The decision is in connection with receiving several serious offers,» the DZI group said in a statement. «We suppose the additional clarifications will take around 30 days, in which the DZI group will define its position and the future steps it will undertake.» Earlier yesterday, the exchange halted trade in DZI, Bulgaria’s 11th largest bank, for three days. Greece’s third-largest lender, EFG Eurobank, said it had filed a binding bid. EFG already controls Bulgaria’s seventh-largest bank in terms of assets, Postbank. Other potential bidders include Greece’s second-largest bank in terms of assets, Alpha Bank, Belgian banking and insurance group KBC and Hungary’s leading bank OTP. Austria’s Volksbanken, which had expressed initial interest in the acquisition, said yesterday it was no longer involved. «After initial interest, we decided to stay away from DZI,» Chief Executive Franz Pinkl said. Bank Austria Creditanstalt holds 20 percent in DZI. It bought a 25 percent stake last year for 16 million euros to back call warrants it later placed with industrial investors across Europe. It later sold 5 percent to undisclosed investors. DZI’s remaining shares are floated on the Sofia exchange. The bank’s total assets stood at 1.1 billion levs (565.4 million euros) at the end of June.