France's BNP joins battle for Rabobank's Polish arm

Thu Nov 7, 2013 7:12am EST
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By Adrian Krajewski and Lionel Laurent

WARSAW/PARIS (Reuters) - France's BNP Paribas (BNPP.PA: Quote) has joined the bidding for the Polish arm of Dutch lender Rabobank RABO.UL, aiming to strengthen its position in eastern Europe's largest economy in a deal that could be worth about 1 billion euros ($1.4 billion).

France's biggest lender said on Thursday it had made a non-binding bid for Bank BGZ BGZ.WA, confirming media reports and joining Italy's UniCredit (CRDI.MI: Quote), which said last month it had entered a preliminary offer for Poland's No. 11 bank by assets.

Rabobank is reviewing options for Bank BGZ and has not officially put it up for sale. But analysts think it may cash in after U.S. and European regulators fined it $1 billion in the Libor rate rigging scandal.

Poland's banking industry is undergoing a period of change, with some troubled foreign banks selling businesses there to boost their capital positions, but others keen to strengthen their foothold in an economy which has outperformed much of the euro zone in recent years.

BNP has said it is looking to expand into faster-growing markets and buying BGZ could yield benefits from integrating it with the group's existing corporate and investment-banking activities in Poland BNP.WA.

Poland's banking sector has for years been under strict supervision and has been relatively healthy in comparison with those of many other European nations.

With its mostly rural network, BGZ has also attracted Spain's Banco Santander (SAN.MC: Quote), as well as a combination of eastern Europe's largest insurer PZU PZU.WA and Poland's Alior Bank ALRR.WA, sources told Reuters earlier this year.

But BNP is seen as the front-runner in the race for Rabobank's 98.5-percent stake in BGZ, thanks to its robust capital position compared with many rivals.   Continued...

A part of the logo of the BNP Paribas bank is seen on the rooftop of their Paris headquarters April 26, 2012. T REUTERS/Mal Langsdon