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Bank merger put off

  • 1999-05-20
RIGA (BNS) - Saules Banka will continue as an independent bank, Estonia's Uhispank and Latvia's Unibanka said in a joint statement.

The three banks belong to the same group with Sweden's Scandinaviska Enskilda Banken holding court as a strategic shareholder. Lithuania's Vilniaus Bankas is also part of the group. Analysts had earlier predicted that Saules Banka could be merged with Unibanka to avoid competition within the group.

The banks decided that there is no conflict of interest between Saules Banka and Unibanka.

"Working within one banking group, Unibanka and Saules Banka have good possibilities to contribute to the interests of the group by concentrating on different business areas," the banks statement reads. "While Latvijas Unibanka is a universal bank, servicing both large corporate and mass market clients, Saules Banka will meet the group's need for a specialized bank."

Due to the relatively different clientele of the banks, Saules Banka will not be in direct competition with Unibanka, rather the two banks will complement each other by offering services to different client groups.

Yury Schetinin, Saules Banka council chairman and former owner, positively valued the fact that Saules Banka will retain its independence in the Latvian financial market.

"I am very happy that a bank in which I have invested so much effort and resources has retained its independence," he said explaining that the merger would not have given the expected economic effect.

He also said Saules Banka's future will depend on Uhispank's financial investment.

"If Uhispank's intentions are strengthened with real money, Saules Banka will have rather good prospects on the market. But if there is no actual investment on the part of the Estonians, today's statement will exist only on paper and Uhispank will continue looking for a buyer for Saules Banka," said Schetinin.

SEB Baltic Holding Vice President Harald Fleetwood admitted that the Swedish bank did not advise Uhispank in deciding about the further operation of Saules Banka.

Fleetwood, however, did not rule out the possibility that in the future SEB Baltic Holding and Uhispank will discuss further strategies for Saules Banka in order to avoid competing with Latvijas Unibanka.