Swedbank offer may be too sweet to pass up

  • 2005-03-09
  • From wire reports
TALLINN - Heldur Meerits, one of the largest private investors in Hansabank, said it would be difficult for investors to resist Swedbank's attempt to buy out all the bank's shares despite wishes to the contrary.

"Estonian shareholders own only slightly more than 6 percent of shares in Hansabank," Meerits told Radio Estonia last week. "It would be difficult to influence these events, but we will try."

Meerits said that, in his opinion, there was no sense for small shareholders to sell their shares to Swedbank because Hansabank still had tremendous room for development and share prices would certainly rise in the long term. "If at all possible, the shares should be kept," he said.

Meerits cited the housing loans market as an example of why Hansabank was set to develop rapidly. Estonian housing loans account for 21 percent of GDP, while in Western Europe they account for 50 percent, he explained. Besides, there is the vast Russian market waiting for Hansabank, he added.

He said that Swedbank's justifications for taking over Hansabank at the price it offered were flimsy and that Swedbank managing director Carl Eric Stalberg's words were characteristic of the adverse side of capitalism more than anything else.

Jaanus Erlemann, managing director of the Tallinn Stock Exchange, said that he got the impression that, like TeliaSonera, the Scandinavian telecommunications company, Swedbank underestimated the Estonian market as a backwater where they could do whatever they wished.

Erlemann has previously stated that Hansabank's removal from the market would adversely affect the stock exchange, where it accounts for almost three-fourths of turnover.