UniCredit eyes Poland's BGZ, might leave Ukraine: CEO
By Silvia Aloisi
MILAN (Reuters) - UniCredit (CRDI.MI: Quote), Italy's largest bank by assets, has submitted a preliminary offer to buy Poland's Bank BGZ BGZ.WA and is sounding investors out on the possibility of selling its Ukrainian unit, Chief Executive Federico Ghizzoni said.
Ghizzoni, who earlier this year sold Unicredit's Kazakh operation, said this was part of the bank's strategy to strengthen its presence in countries it considers "core" and leave those markets where it sees little opportunity for growth.
"We made an offer on a Polish bank, we are still in the early stages," Ghizzoni told foreign reporters in comments embargoed for Thursday morning. He later identified the bank as BGZ, which is owned by Dutch lender Rabobank RABO.UL and could be worth around $1 billion.
A spokeswoman for Rabobank, the Netherlands' largest retail bank, said the lender was still "reviewing its strategic options" for BGZ and had not yet decided whether it wanted to sell its 98 percent stake.
A UniCredit spokesman said the offer, made through UniCredit's Polish unit Pekao PEO.WA, was not binding because the sale process was in a preliminary phase.
Other banks potentially interested in BGZ are France's Credit Agricole (CAGR.PA: Quote), BNP Paribas (BNPP.PA: Quote), Dutch bank ING ING.AS and Poland's Getin Noble Bank GNB.WA, according to sources familiar with the situation and Polish media reports.
Foreign banks control about 70 percent of the Polish banking sector, but several have looked for an exit to boost capital positions hit by the global economic crisis.
NO DECISION YET ON UKRAINE Continued...