Varga: Ball is in Raiffeisen’s court on Hungary asset sale

History

National Economy Minister Mihály Varga on Tuesday said it was up to Austria’s Raiffeisen Bank International (RBI) whether to sell its Hungary-based business or not. However, he would not confirm reports that Széchenyi Commercial Bank (SzKB), in which the state holds a 49% stake, had made an offer for the unit.

The ball is in the Austrians’ court,” Varga said on public television channel M1. “But I wouldn’t place a large bet on the transaction taking place,” he added.

Varga said that as a minority owner in SzKB, the state must use taxpayers’ money appropriately. If we deem that it is not in the interest of the state to participate in a bank transaction, we must express this stand decisively, he said, adding that “we’re not there yet.”

Business news website Napi.hu reported yesterday that SzKB would acquire Raiffeisen’s Hungarian unit for a token sum of €1.

RBI representatives said in November that the bank was considering an offer made for its Hungarian business, but a spokesperson for the bank declined on Tuesday to confirm reports that a meeting of the board on the same day would take a decision on the matter.

A spokesman for the National Bank of Hungary (MNB) on Tuesday said no request had been made for a permit necessary for the transfer of Raiffeisen’s business in Hungary, responding to an enquiry by MTI. István Binder said the central bank, which also serves as Hungary’s financial market regulator, had no knowledge of any such transaction involving Raiffeisen.

Raiffeisen Bank International booked a €81 million loss at its business in Hungary in its Q1-Q3 earnings report published late in November. The loss narrowed from €97 million in the base period as net income from commissions and fees climbed and provisioning fell.

RBI’s Hungary-based operations had total assets of €6.27 billion at the end of Q3, down 15% from twelve months earlier. Stock of client loans fell 5% to €5.16 billion and client deposits slipped 18% to €4.08 billion.

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