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OTP Bank 'not in talks' with Soros on Bawag bid

Hungary’s OTP Bank Nyrt, which has spent $2.4 billion buying banks in eastern Europe over the past five years, said it's not in talks with billionaire George Soros to jointly bid for Austria's Bawag PSK Bank, denying press reports. „OTP is not and has not been conducting any talks with George Soros or any of Soros's companies regarding the acquisition of Bawag PSK Bank,” the Budapest-based bank's press department told Bloomberg in an e-mailed response. The Austrian newspaper Der Standard reported earlier yesterday that OTP and Hungarian-born Soros are considering bidding together for Bawag, the country's No. 4 bank, without saying where it got the information. Non-binding bids for Bawag are due today. The Austrian Trade Union Federation hired Morgan Stanley to sell Bawag to cut debt that stems from failed hedge-fund investments from 1998 to 2000. Bawag had a profit of € 6 million ($7.6 million) last year after it had to write down assets in connection with the failed investments.

Bawag, which has units in Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Malta, wants to expand its retail business in eastern Europe CEO Ewald Nowotny has said. In addition to OTP, Germany's Allianz AG, Bayerische Landesbank and Deutsche Postbank AG are interested in bidding as well as Spain's Santander Central Hispano SA and France's Credit Agricole SA, according to Der Standard. Private equity companies J.C. Flowers & Co. and Cerberus Capital Management LP may also make a bid, the newspaper said. OTP, which already has units in Romania, Serbia, Ukraine, Russia and Bulgaria, also has made bids for banks in Romania and Bulgaria. Chairman Sándor Csányi told the Financial Times in a July interview that OTP is interested in buying Bawag. (Bloomberg)