Spain’s largest bank Banco Santander gains polish regulators approval to acquire a majority stake in Poland’s Bank Zachodni WBK

Spain’s largest bank Banco Santander SA says it has won approval for its planned acquisition of a majority stake in Poland’s Bank Zachodni WBK SA. The Polish bank is controlled by Allied Irish Banks Plc. Banco Santander had proposed a bid pegged at US$5.7 billion for a 100 per cent stake in the Polish Bank.

According to Bloomberg, Banco Santander’s investment was approved through a unanimous vote by the Warsaw based Financial Supervisory Commission, Poland’s regulatory watchdog. Allied Irish Banks Plc agreed in 2010 September to sell its 70 per cent stake in Poland’s third-largest lender by market value, after it was ordered to bolster a balance sheet depleted by Ireland’s economic slump and real-estate losses.

The move is in line with the Spanish Bank’s strategy targeted at growth markets such as Poland and Brazil amongst others. Santander is adding Poland to its other growth markets as it seeks to become less dependent on the Spanish economy, which is struggling to emerge from its worst recession in 60 years.

In a statement, the Financial Supervisory Commission said it had considered recent pledges made by Banco Santander regarding the cautious and stable management of the bank, including capital commitments, keeping the bank’s listing on the Warsaw Stock Exchange and maintaining its autonomy.

The Bloomberg report indicates that on the 7 Feb, the Spanish bank issued a call to buy Zachodni shares for 226.89 Polish zloty provided it received the Polish financial market watchdog’s approval. Under Polish law, any buyer of more than 66 per cent in a listed company must offer to buy out the remaining shareholders.

The bidding process can now start Feb. 24 and end March 25 as planned by the Spanish bank. Banco Santander is the largest bank in the Eurozone and one of the largest banks in the world in terms of market capitalization. It is part of Grupo Santander.

Grupo Santander consists of more than 170,000 employees, 90.1 million customers, 13,390 branches and 2.27 million shareholders. Retail banking - the main aspect of Santander's operations - generates 82 per cent of the group's profit.

On 10 June 2010, Grupo Santander announced the investment of approximately US$ 270 million (€200 million) in Campinas, Brazil for a technology center, research and data processing, which will include a next-generation data center. The project will prepare the bank to expand its branch network and customer base.

24 February 2011

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