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Report: NLB submits binding bid for Serbia's Komercijalna Banka

Belgrade, 17 December (STA) - NLB, the leading bank on the Slovenian market, has submitted a binding bid to take over Komercijalna Banka, Serbia's second-largest bank, in which the state has a 83% stake, according to a report by the Serbian newspaper Blic.

The other two bidders are, according to the Blic's unofficial information, Austria's Raiffeisen Bank International and Serbia's AIK Banka, which has recently bought Slovenia's Gorenjska Banka.

The Serbian Finance Ministry opened the bids on Monday and confirmed for Blic it had received three complete binding bids, which will now be analysed.

The best bidders will then be invited to talks.

It is not clear how much the bidders are offering, but the state would reportedly like to get much more than EUR 500 million.

The Serbian paper Danas has recently reported that NLB, which was privatised in two stages in 2018 and 2019, is offering EUR 450 million, AIK Banka EUR 430 million and Raiffeisen Bank International EUR 390 million.

However, public opinion in Serbia is swaying against Komercijalna Banka's privatisation, because the bank is doing well - this year it is expected to post a record EUR 74 million in net profit, according to the Slovenian newspaper Delo.

The governor of the Serbian central bank, Jorgovanka Tabaković, for instance said the state was a good owner and the bank's director Vladimir Medan said Komercijalna Banka could grow regardless of ownership.

NLB's market share in Serbia is below 2%, the lowest in all its markets in the Western Balkans, and the bank has been looking to strengthen its role as a key regional player, including through takeovers.

Last summer some media reported it was eyeing Komercijalna Banka. NLB was in fact reported to have decided to sell its insurer NLB Vita to avoid the European Commission's extending NLB's ban on takeovers by 18 months because the state missed the end-2018 deadline to fully privatise the bank.

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