Three foreign banks show interest in Lithuania's last state bank

  • 2001-09-13
  • BNS
VILNIUS - At least three Western banks have shown interest in the privatization of Zemes Ukio Bankas, Lithuania's last state-owned bank.

According to unconfirmed reports, Austria's Raiffeisen Zentralbank Oesterreich, Germany's Nord/LB and the Nordic bank Nordea acquired sets of the bank's privatization documents as of Sept. 7.

The blocks of documents cost 5,000 litas ($1,250) each. Neither the Lithuanian State Property Fund, the Ministry of Finance, nor the bank agreed to announce the number of the blocks of documents sold. "More than one but less than 10 blocks of documents have been sold," said Jonas Dieninis, chairman of LZUB's board.

"I have higher expectations now than before the privatization process had been started. I hope the third time will be lucky," he said.

This is the government's third attempt to sell 76.01 percent of shares in LZUB, valued at 78.173 million litas.

The government wants to sell the last state-owned bank to a solid foreign bank or other financial institution with high credit ratings and shareholder equity of at least $150 million.

Documents from potential buyers will be accepted from Sept. 13 to Oct. 3, the date when bids are to be opened. The State Property Fund hopes to sign a sale agreement by the end of this year so that the deal can be closed in the first quarter of 2002.

Nord/LB and Nordea representatives in Vilnius confirmed that they had acquired the sets of documents, but refused to comment on whether either would bid for a majority stake in LZUB.

"We need more time to evaluate the available information," said Petri Loikkanen, head of the Vilnius branch of Merita Bank Plc. (Nordea).

The Ministry of Finance reported that the Austrian banks are also interested in the privatization of the Lithuanian bank. Susanne Riess-Passer, Austria's deputy chancellor and federal minister for public affairs and sports, confirmed this to Lithuanian Finance Minister Dalia Grybauskaite in a meeting on Sept. 6.

Andreas Ecker, a spokesman for Raiffeisen Zentralbank Oesterreich confirmed the bank's strategic long-term interests in the Baltic states, including Lithuania. "Lithuania might be one of those countries where we will expand our operations in the future," he said.