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OTP Bank CEO says 10% voting limit aimed at averting takeover

A proposal of OTP Bank's board to limit the voting rights of shareholders to 10% is intended to avert an eventual “stealthy, silent” takeover, Chairman-CEO Sándor Csányi said.

Csányi added that it is not certain that OTP shareholders will vote to accept the proposed limit at the bank's AGM on April 24.

OTP fell sharply from above HUF 7,000 last September to bottom at around 1,300 early March. The stock has been rising practically steadily since, to trade above 2,600 on Thursday.

A recent share swap agreement which gave Hungarian oil and gas company MOL 8.57% of voting rights in the bank was interpreted as a defensive move. OTP holds 2.4% of its own shares as treasury shares after it transferred a 24 million treasury share packet to MOL under the deal on April 16.

The board proposed to introduce the stricter limit, instead of the 25% limit at present, for a preliminary period between April 25 this year and April 30, 2011, citing a risk of a “significant reshuffle of ownership structure in the current economic and financial environment.”

Responding a question, the OTP Bank chairman-CEO confirmed he believed that Hungarian-born US businessman George Soros was behind last year's speculative attack against the bank, adding that he has not spoken to Soros since the incident.

Hungary's government has taken significant, progressive steps to support the forint, Csányi said. The fiscal crisis-management approach of the Bajnai cabinet has been basically sound, he said, adding that he sees the need of a greater reduction of VAT on staple food and take steps aimed at reforming major systems of redistribution.

The OTP Bank chairman-CEO reiterated that he is not interested in holding political office, noting that Prime Minister Bajnai had not asked him to participate in his government.

In response to a question, Csányi said that early elections would not have been a bad solution to Hungary's current political difficulties, though he believes that the Bajnai government's current program might enable it to endure until regularly scheduled elections next spring. (MTI – Econews)