Business News

KBC, Santander near Polish Kredyt Bank deal - sources

WARSAW (Reuters) - Belgian bancassurance group KBC KBC.BR is close to finalising long-running discussions to sell Polish lender Kredyt Bank BKRE.WA to Spain's Banco Santander SAN.MC just after completing the sale of its Polish insurance unit, sources said.

A woman walks past the logo of Belgian banking and insurance group KBC in Leuven September 21, 2011. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

KBC, which owns 80 percent in Kredyt Bank, has been reported to be in talks with Santander, the European Union’s largest lender, for several months as part of a series of spinoffs required by European Union regulators.

“The groups have intensified talks recently and are closing in on the sale,” a source with knowledge of the matter said.

Another source confirmed that the pace of talks has picked up.

“Santander has polished up its offer and I would not be surprised if it were clinched within days,” the person said.

KBC and Santander declined to comment.

Santander’s Chairman Emilio Botin said last week “There have been conversations with a bank in Poland,” but did not elaborate.

KBC and Kredyt Bank, which has a market capitalisation of 3.26 billion zlotys (655.73 million pounds), will publish their fourth-quarter results on Thursday.

Santander aims to become one of Poland's top three banks after snapping up the country's No. 5 lender, Bank Zachodni WBK BZWB.WA for 15.9 billion zlotys last year.

KBC received 7 billion euros $9.3 billion (5.8 billion pound) in state aid during the 2008-09 financial crisis. Last month it agreed to sell Poland’s No.2 insurer Warta to Germany’s No.3 insurance company Talanx for 770 million euros.

Besides Kredyt Bank, the Belgian group still has to sell its relatively small German business, a diamond bank unit in Antwerp and its operations in Serbia and Russia.

It has already sold its private banking arm to Qatar-backed Precision Group, its British brokerage Peel Hunt, its Asian derivatives operations as well as Belgian insurance and bank units Fidea and Centea.

Proceeds from these sales helped it pay back 500 million euros to the Belgian federal state at the end of 2011.

Additional reporting by Marcin Goclowski in Warsaw, Robert Jan Martunek in Brussels and Jesus Aguado in Madrid. Editing by Jane Merriman