Erste CEO: Hungary, EBRD to acquire Erste stake in 2-3 months

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Wikimedia / Dragan Tatic / CAPTION: Andreas Treichl (holding the microphone) speaks at Panel discussion on " Europe before the crisis / post-crisis."

The Hungarian government and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) could jointly acquire a 15% stake in the Hungarian unit of Erste bank in two to three months, Erste Group CEO Andreas Treichl told Austrian daily Der Standard in an interview, Hungarian news agency MTI reported yesterday.

Andreas Treichl (holding the microphone) speaks at a panel discussion entitled "Europe before the crisis / post-crisis" in 2013. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Dragan Tatic)

Treichl reportedly said that Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has “honored” every agreement signed with Erste and the EBRD. The CEO’s comment on the purchase follows the Hungarian government’s announcement last week of an amendment to the Parliament on reducing the extraordinary bank levy. The government’s announcement came after objections by the European Commission to two points of the rules pertaining to Hungaryʼs agreement with the EBRD had been voiced.

The CEO noted that the Hungarian and Slovakian governments have already been convinced to lower their bank levies and Erste is working on reaching a similar result in Austria, MTI reported.

A report at the beginning of November said that Erste Group Bank AG could withdraw from a deal to sell a stake in its Hungarian unit to the Hungarian state, a move that could “derail Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s bid to smooth ties with the banking industry and help lift the country’s credit rating to investment level,” Bloomberg Business said. 

Erste Hungary CEO Radovan Jelašić told the Budapest Business Journal in an interview that while he cautions that recent moves by the government could be a deal breaker, his bank has plans to sell an ownership stake to the state and to increase its lending activities here.

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and National Economy Minister Mihály Varga have stated numerous times in the past few months that the Hungarian government will decrease the bank levy in exchange for increased lending activity by banks operating in Hungary.

Early in June, Varga said that a tax benefit would be granted to banks that increased their lending activity.

The National Bank of Hungary (MNB) said in October that it was planning to push banks to increase lending within the corporate sector, especially to SMEs, as a condition for the reduction of the tax on the banking sector.

Hungary introduced the extraordinary bank levy as a temporary measure for three years in 2010, but it became permanent in 2013 and Varga said earlier that it would be maintained, but at a lower rate. The Hungarian government recently announced plans to gradually reduce the bank levy in the coming years. Next year, the levy is set to drop by HUF 60 bln.

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