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Raiffeisen Said to Revisit $1.3 Billion Sale on Stock Rise

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Feb. 8 (Bloomberg) -- Raiffeisen Bank International AG, eastern Europe’s third-biggest lender, is revisiting plans for a rights offering after abandoning preparations for a sale last year, four people with knowledge of the talks said.

Raiffeisen has discussed a possible offering with banks, and has yet to decide whether to proceed, said the people, who declined to be identified because the considerations are private. The lender may seek as much as 1 billion euros ($1.3 billion), two of the people said. Raiffeisen won’t start the sale before it publishes full-year results next month, another person said.

The bank needs to raise money to bolster capital and rebuild reserves eroded by losses in Hungary. The Vienna-based lender put plans for a sale on hold last year after Hungary’s decision to force foreign lenders to swallow currency losses on mortgages denominated in Swiss francs pushed Raiffeisen’s local unit into a loss and sent the lender’s stock down by more than 50 percent.

A Raiffeisen spokeswoman, Ingrid Krenn-Ditz, said a share sale may be an option, depending on market developments. She declined to elaborate on the size or timing of an offering.

Shares Doubled

The shares have more than doubled to more than 30 euros since hitting a 12-month low in November, making it the best-performing stock in the 43-member Bloomberg European Banks and Financial Services Index in the period. UniCredit SpA, Italy’s largest lender and Raiffeisen’s biggest competitor in eastern Europe, raised 7.5 billion euros in a rights offering in January.

“The share price is back at levels where it’s not so dilutive for the parent,” said Ronny Rehn, an analyst at Keefe Bruyette & Woods in London with an “underperform” rating on Raiffeisen shares. “It would be good if they lock it in at a somewhat decent price, not too far from tangible book value.”

Raiffeisen and its parent, Raiffeisen Zentralbank Oesterreich AG, are filling a capital gap of 2.1 billion euros determined by the European Banking Authority. They have completed measures equivalent to raising 1.4 billion euros, which included making some forms of capital compliant with EBA’s rules and reducing assets, the banks said Jan. 25.

“We all know they need a bit of capital, so that would be a good first step,” Rehn said. “It gets them beyond the EBA requirement and then we can discuss what to do with the participation capital,” he said, referring to state aid Raiffeisen received.

Share Sale

Raiffeisen said Aug. 25 it may sell shares within 12 months, and it met investors in presentations around the world over two weeks in September. The announcement came days before Hungary unveiled the plan Sept. 9 that forced banks to swallow the mortgage losses, causing a 2011 loss of 320 million euros for Raiffeisen’s unit in the country. Raiffeisen shares plunged by more than half after closing at 29.80 euros on Sept. 1 in Vienna to hit a 12-month low of 14.155 euros on Nov. 23.

Raiffeisen Chairman Walter Rothensteiner said Sept. 22 that there would be no share sale at prices similar to the close a day earlier at 22.10 euros. Since the November low, the stock more than doubled.

Rothensteiner has also said that RZB, which owns 78.5 percent of Raiffeisen, may not fully participate in a share sale. If RZB allows itself to be diluted, Raiffeisen’s free float would rise in a share sale, increasing the stock’s liquidity and opening it to new investors.

Shares Fall

Raiffeisen shares turned negative in Vienna trading after Bloomberg reported about the plans. The stock declined 4.4 percent to 27.73 euros at the 5:30 p.m. close, making it the worst performer in the bank index, after rising as high as 30.50 euros earlier in the day.

Raiffeisen first sold shares to the public in 2005 at 32.50 euros apiece, and at 104 euros in a secondary offering in 2007. Its core Tier 1 ratio, a measure of financial strength, declined by 60 basis points to 7.9 percent in the third quarter because its loan book grew. The capital includes 1.75 billion euros in state funds it received in 2009 and must repay. Standard & Poor’s said last year it may cut Raiffeisen’s debt rating if the lender doesn’t sell stock in the “short to medium term.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Zijing Wu in London at zwu17@bloomberg.net; Boris Groendahl in Vienna at bgroendahl@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Frank Connelly at fconnelly@bloomberg.net; Jacqueline Simmons at jackiem@bloomberg.net

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