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Medja Appointed New Chairman of NLB Bank (adds)

Ljubljana, 14 September (STA) - The supervisors of NLB appointed Janko Medja the state-owned bank's new chairman on Friday. Medja, who was NLB's chief supervisor before the appointment, will replace Božo Jašovič, who stepped down in December last year over disagreements with the state with regard to the sale of retailer Mercator.

Medja, who is to take over at NLB on 1 October or when the central bank gives its consent, told the press that he would like to have a free hand in choosing his board and would not have accepted the post without the supervisory board's assurances about this.

Acknowledging that he is taking over at a difficult time, Medja, who was appointed to the NLB supervisory board in June, stressed that he must yet acquaint himself with all the operative and strategic challenges.

"There will surely be talk about things about which nothing is known yet," added Medja, who spent eleven years before coming to NLB with Unicredit Banka Slovenija, considered one of the most healthy banks in Slovenia.

Between 2004 and 2008 Medja was the head of the department for corporate banking and from September 2008 to April this year a member of the management board responsible for corporate and investment banking.

He pointed to four priorities in his term, the first one being for the bank to start working with clients. While releasing the credit crunch will not be possible just yet due to the situation in the economy, the bank "must acknowledge that doing business with clients is the reason of its existence".

Moreover, Medja will take on the restructuring of the bank to tidy up its balances which are struggling under the weight of bad claims as well as the reshuffling of NLB's management and organisation.

He would also take care of the bank's capital adequacy, but this will not be possible without cooperation with national and European regulators, according to the newly appointed chairman.

As the most important task of his term, Medja stressed that he would try to restore NLB's good name. According to him, the bank has suffered a huge loss of repute at home as well as abroad over the past few years.

The Finance Ministry meanwhile said that the decision of the supervisory board was "an extremely positive signal for the domestic as well as foreign financial public".

The ministry expects the bank to get a proactive management that will work with the ministry to draft solutions for clearing the bank's portfolio of bad claims and securing capital adequacy.

It moreover expressed expectation that the new management would support the government to withdraw from NLB, which is in line with the ruling coalition's decision to sell part of the state's 59.2% stake in NLB, with Slovenia keeping a controlling interest of 25% plus one share.

According to a press release, the ministry will call for a shareholders' meeting to appoint Medja's replacement in the supervisory board of the bank, which media suggest would be head of the Slovenian Bank Association (ZBS) and former central bank governor France Arhar.

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