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OTP buys 83% of Serbia's Kulska Banka, will merge local units

OTP Bank Nyrt, a Hungarian lender expanding in eastern Europe since 2002, said it bought 83% of Kulska banka a.d. Novi Sad in Serbia, and plans to merge the lender with two other units it has in that country.

The Budapest-based bank, which already bought 26% of the Serbian bank December 4, boosted its stake in a public offer that closed on Wednesday, the company said in a bourse statement yesterday. OTP will merge Kulska with Zepter banka and a.d Niska banka a.d. to cover the Serbian market and expects to have a single bank with new management in April next year, it said. The new bank will cover the entire area of Serbia. The Hungarian lender is targeting acquisitions in countries where growth surpasses that in its domestic market.

The bank already has units in Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Serbia, Slovakia, Russia and Ukraine. „Serbia's banking system has significant growth potential,” OTP said in the statement. „OTP Bank is convinced that it would grab a bigger part from the growth of the Serbian banking market in the coming years than its current 3% total assets-based market share.” OTP shares rose 3% to Ft 7,620 yesterday in Budapest. They have jumped 24% this year, while the benchmark BUX Index gained 19%. (Bloomberg)