Polish Prime Minister `Respects' AIB's Choice of Santander to Buy Zachodni

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said he “respects” Allied Irish Banks Plc’s choice of Banco Santander SA, rather than a state-owned Polish bank, to buy a 70 percent stake in Bank Zachodni WBK SA.

While “it’s a pity” that government-controlled PKO Bank Polski SA failed in its bid for the country’s third-largest lender by market value, “the world moves on” and the government won’t interfere in the regulatory approval process, Tusk said at a news conference in Warsaw today.

Allied Irish is selling its stake in Zachodni to bolster a balance sheet depleted by Ireland’s economic slump and real- estate losses, seeking to raise a total of 7.4 billion euros ($9.5 billion) by the end of the year to meet regulatory capital targets. The sale will generate about 2.5 billion euros of equity Tier 1 capital.

Santander hasn’t yet submitted a request for approval of the takeover, Lukasz Dajnowicz, a spokesman for the financial regulator, said by phone today. Peter Greiff, a spokesman for Santander, had no immediate comment on the process.

In a separate procedure, the watchdog is investigating whether Allied Irish disclosed confidential information about the transaction, Dajnowicz said.

Investigation

“I wouldn’t speak of this as blocking the transaction,” Dajnowicz said. “As the market supervisor, we’re checking that the laws were followed. There’s no reason to scare anybody.”

The sale process was “entirely appropriate” and Allied Irish will “be happy to cooperate fully” in any investigation, the Dublin-based bank said yesterday. Greiff declined to comment.

In addition to PKO, BNP Paribas SA of France and Intesa Sanpaolo SpA were among the other bidders for Zachodni.

“Both the Irish regulator and the markets will give Allied Irish the full benefit of the 2.5 billion euros it is getting for Bank Zachodni,” said Oliver Gilvarry, an analyst with Dublin-based Dolmen Securities. “I’d be very surprised if anything came of an investigation.”

Polish central bank Governor Marek Belka said Santander’s interest showed the country’s economy, the only one in the European Union to post growth last year, enjoyed “respect.”

“Interest in our country by Santander, the biggest bank in the euro zone, isn’t the worst news,” Belka said in an interview on Radio Zet.

Santander is the area’s largest bank by market value.

To contact the reporter on this story: Nathaniel Espino in Warsaw nespino@bloomberg.net

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