Friday, September 23, 2011

Romania’s SIF4 Holders Approve Sale of BCR Stake to Erste

The shareholders of SIF Muntenia SA, a Romanian investment fund, gave the management clearance today to continue talks on selling a minority stake in Banca Comerciala Romana SA to Austria’s Erste Group Bank AG (EBS), Muntenia Chief Executive Officer Petre Pavel Szel said.

The fund, also called SIF4, is party to an agreement in principle by four investment funds, known as SIFs, to sell 24.1 percent of BCR to Erste for cash and shares worth a total of 435 million euros ($584 million). SIF4 won’t request a listing of the Romanian lender on the Bucharest Stock Exchange, Szel said in a phone interview today after the shareholders meeting.

“We received the green light from our shareholders to continue negotiations with Erste,” Szel said. “From now on, the management can continue the process to dispose of the BCR stake and we hope that we can sell the first part of our stake by December.”

The four SIFs that signed the agreement in principle are SIF Banat-Crisana SA, SIF Transilvania SA, SIF Muntenia and SIF Oltenia SA. Erste, eastern Europe’s second-biggest lender, will buy their shares for a total of 453.9 million lei ($141 million) in cash. The funds will also get stakes in Erste of as much as 1 percent each through a share swap, once the transaction is completed. That will raise Erste’s BCR stake to 93.5 percent.
Moldova Yet to Decide

SIF Moldova SA, which was left out of the accord, may also consider selling its stake in BCR if shareholders agree, CEO Costel Ceocea said on Sept. 15. A vote on this is scheduled for tomorrow or Saturday.

The five SIFs together would become one of the biggest shareholders in the Vienna-based bank, with a combined stake of about 5 percent.

“SIF4 shareholders have mandated the board to solicit a BCR listing only if negotiations with Erste Group Bank are not finalized by Oct. 13,” EFG Eurobank Ergasias SA’s Romanian brokerage unit wrote in a note to clients today. “In other words, the disposal of the BCR interest received the green light.”

When it agreed to buy a 61.9 percent stake in BCR in 2005 for 3.75 billion euros, Erste promised to list BCR’s shares within three years, to give the SIFs an exit option. It agreed with the funds to delay that target date to October this year because of adverse market conditions. Earlier this year, Erste Chief Executive Officer Andreas Treichl said he would now rather add to the stake -- which has been raised in the meantime to 69.4 percent -- than list.

To contact the reporter on this story: Andra Timu in Bucharest at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James M. Gomez at

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