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Majority Stake in Abanka to Be Put Up for Sale

Kranj, 19 November (STA) - Over 50% of Abanka, Slovenia's third-largest bank, is to be put up for sale after conglomerate Sava decided to offload its 23.83% stake in the bank and said on Friday it had already signed up other key shareholders to join the deal.

Sava's stake in Abanka is worth EUR 83m at the current price on the Ljubljana Stock Exchange. Abanka soared nearly 3% on the news in early trading, to EUR 48.4.

The Sava supervisors made the move on Thursday in order to shore up the finances of the troubled company, which suffered severe write-downs on its investment in insolvent retailer Merkur and had a net debt of EUR 281m at the end of October.

But a statement from the supervisory board suggests the company is also fed up with trying to convince shareholders into a merger with bank Gorenjska banka, in which it holds a 49.8% stake, a project that it has been advocating for years.

The news comes after business daily Finance reported a month ago that a shareholder agreement had been signed by several key owners setting the price at EUR 76 per share, well above its current market price.

A month ago a consortium had formed which held a 39% stake and included gaming company Hit (6.5%) as well as financial firms Vipa Holding (3.7%), Diamond (3.6%) and Zvon Ena (2.4%).

Abanka's single biggest shareholder currently is the state-controlled insurer Zavarovalnica Triglav, which holds a combined 33% together with its fund Triglav VS.

Abanka posted a net profit of EUR 11.9m for January through September, down 34% over the year before. Total assets contracted by 0.2% to EUR 4.5bn, with the bank holding a 8.9% share of the market by assets.

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