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Serbian Premier Sees Delay in Selling Shares in Banks on Crisis

Serbian Prime Minister Mirko Cvetkovic said the state will delay selling its shares in eight local banks until conditions improve.

“Our general idea is for the government to withdraw from the banking sector but that can’t be done in the short term and especially not at a time of crisis,” Cvetkovic said in an interview today at a presentation in Belgrade.

The government owns 68.5 percent of Banka Postanska Stedionica AD, with national post office Saobracaja Srbija, or PTT, holding about 24 percent. Small private shareholders and Serbia’s state-owned pension fund own the rest. The state also owns stakes of various amounts in banks such as Agrobanka AD, Cacanska Banka AD, Komercijalna Banka AD, Razvojna Banka Vojvodine AD and Srpska Banka AD.

The government will be looking for a strategic partner for Postanska to “significantly boost its capital base,” Cvetkovic said, adding that any attempt to sell the shares will not take place in the “next few months.”

While waiting for a better moment to sell the banks, including Postanska, which has a 1.3 percent market share in terms of assets and 5.6 percent market share measured by the number of employees, “the idea is not to have a single majority shareholder but a mix of several shareholders, with PTT boosting its stake to 49 percent,” Cvetkovic said, without elaborating.

Postanska’s shares last traded on Oct. 3, closing 0.06 percent down at 15,790 Serbian dinars ($219.18) per share, according to Belgrade Stock Exchange data.

The bank relies on 2.5 million retail clients, or one in three citizens in Serbia, for 65 percent of its business and has capital of 89.9 million euros ($124 million) and a 30.28 percent return on capital, according to Chief Executive Officer Srdjan Cekic.

Postanska had net income of 784.6 million dinars in the first half of 2011 after full-year profit of 1.25 billion dinars in 2010, according to central bank figures. The bank plans to use the gains to boost capital, Cekic said.

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