Swedes boost their share in Unibanka

  • 1999-02-25
RIGA (BNS) - Sweden's Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken continued to increase its stake in Unibanka, Latvia's second largest bank.

SEB bought 5.9 percent of the state-owned Unibanka's shares at a Feb. 11 auction and also acquired the stake held by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

After the two acquisitions the Swedish bank has increased its stake in Unibanka to 44.3 percent, said Unibanka's press secretary Liga Liepina. SEB acquired 5,714,553 shares at the price of 1,36 lats per share.

The EBRD as a medium-term financial investor purchased Unibanka's shares in mid-1996 to promote good corporate governance practices and to help attract a strategic investor, Liepina said.

She admitted that "the presence of the EBRD has been a factor of great importance in the stabilization of Unibanka in particular and the Latvian banking sector in general."

The change in the shareholders' structure is a positive development because SEB as a strategic investor will focus on the growth of the bank's business, Liepina pointed out.

"By definition, the financial investor is looking for profits and attractive share prices. The strategic investor, on the other hand, may substantially contribute to the long-term business development. Thus, by networks through its counterparts in SEB, the staff of Unibanka will explore new opportunities in upgrading its technologies, raising long term capital, improving its customer service and developing of new products."

In November 1998, SEB made a strategic investment in Unibanka by purchasing 8,55 million shares at the price of 1,33 lats per share.

At the Feb. 11 auction SEB bought the 2.17 million stake in Unibanka owned by the Latvian Privatization Agency at 1.27 lats per share. Thus, together with the latest purchase of the Unibanka's stock from the EBRD, SEB has made an investment of 22 million lats in Unibanka.