Business News

Reports Suggest Banco Santander Eying Stake in NLB

Ljubljana/Santander, 06 January (STA) - Spain's bank Banco Santander, which is reportedly interested in the 30% stake in Slovenia's biggest bank NLB held by Belgian banking group KBC, is to launch a short-term EUR 2bn bond issue. According to foreign press agencies, the issue is intended for expansion on foreign markets.

Banco Santander, the largest bank in the euro area by market capitalisation, was unavailable to comment for STA on the purpose of the bond issue because of a holiday in Spain.

While it is not clear whether the bonds are related to the acquisition of KBC's stake in NLB, Slovenian daily Dnevnik reported on Wednesday that the Slovenian government - NLB is in majority state ownership - was inclined to the Spanish bank.

According to the newspaper, further talks will depend on KBC. The Belgian group, which bought 34% from the state in 2002 and now owns a 30.6% stake, started thinking about withdrawing from NLB several years ago after the government rejected KBC's plans to increase its share to 51%.

Meanwhile, NLB was planing a EUR 250m capital injection for the end of the 2009, but the move was postponed because of negotiations with KBC, which is expected to make a decision on its participation in the cash injection by 11 January.

Confirming the postponement, Finance Minister Franc Krizanic said on 28 December the state would carry out a capital injection on its own, but left the window open for other owners, including KBC.

Commenting on the developments, PM Borut Pahor said two days later that NLB needed a strategic partner with whom the state, which wants to remain the majority owner, would have a shared interest in the markets of the Western Balkans and the wider region.

Banco Santander Group is present in virtually all Latin American countries, in the US, China and numerous European countries, including Austria, Italy and Hungary. It employs almost 132,000 workers and has 65.1 million clients and 11,178 offices.

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