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NLB Bank Launches Long-Awaited Share Issue

Ljubljana, 07 March (STA) - Slovenia's biggest bank, NLB, launched a EUR 250m share issue on Monday to shore up its balance sheet after massive write-downs that plunged it EUR 200m into the red in 2010.

In the first round of subscription, until 21 March, only existing shareholders can purchase shares at EUR 116 apiece. Any remaining shares will be offered to investors in the second round at the end of March.

The share issue, involving 2.15 million ordinary shares, will increase the number of the bank's shares by up to a quarter.

The launch of subscription marks the end of months of uncertainty, as the bank's biggest owners, the state and Belgian banking group KBC, were unable to agree on the terms of the capital increase.

However, it is still unclear whether KBC will actually purchase shares, as it had voted against the capital increase at the November general meeting, having put forward its own proposal, which was voted down.

The bank, which owns 30.6% of NLB stock, has recently said it would take part if the share issue createsed added value.

However, it noted that it would have to ask the European Commission for permission since its restructuring programme, confirmed by the EU, envisages the disposal of NLB.

In the event that KBC refuses to take part, reports suggest the state may decide to go it alone, which would increase its share from 33.1% to nearly 58%.

It was reported that the government has asked the European Commission whether the capital increase excluding other shareholders would constitute illegal state aid.

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