KBC Said to Plan $1.3 Billion Zachodni Stake Sale Next Week

KBC Groep NV plans to sell its $1.3 billion stake in Bank Zachodni WBK SA, Poland’s third-largest lender, as soon as next week, two bankers with knowledge of the transaction said today.

Belgium’s biggest bank and insurer by market value will sell its 16 percent holding to money managers, said the bankers, who asked not to be identified because the information isn’t public. Spain’s Banco Santander SA, Zachodni’s largest shareholder, may also reduce its 75 percent stake at the same time, the people said.

Zachodni, which completed a merger with KBC’s Kredyt Bank SA unit in January, is under pressure from regulators to boost the proportion of its shares which are available to other investors. The bank has to boost its so-called free-float to 25 percent by April and 30 percent by the end of 2014 from about 9 percent today, according to the regulator.

Santander may want to tap demand for bank stocks after offerings of Bank Pekao SA and PKO Bank Polski shares this year, the two bankers said. Italy’s UniCredit SpA sold a 3.7 billion-zloty ($1.2 billion) stake in Pekao, Poland’s second-largest bank, on January 30. Less than a week earlier, the government and Bank Gospodarstwa Krajowego sold a 5.2 billion-zloty holding in PKO Bank Polski, the country’s largest lender.

Shares Outperform

Zachodni shares have risen 12 percent this year, compared with a 5.1 percent fall in the benchmark WIG20 index. The lender was trading 0.2 percent lower to 272.5 zloty at 12:15 p.m. in Warsaw.

KBC said yesterday it hired Deutsche Bank AG, Citigroup Inc., Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, Credit Suisse Group AG, KBC Securities NV, Santander Investment, Dom Maklerski BZ WBK SA, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and UBS AG to oversee the sale of its stake in Zachodni this year.

While KBC is preparing a share sale, it has “no comment on any time horizon” for the offering, Viviane Huybrecht, a spokeswoman for the lender, said by telephone from Brussels. Radoslaw Rozycki, a spokesman for Bank Zachodni in Warsaw, and Peter Greiff, a spokesman for Santander, declined to comment.

KBC has cut risk-weighted assets by at least 32 percent since the end of 2008 and sold more than 20 entities as part of a disposal program agreed with EU regulators in exchange for approval of state aid. The bank agreed to sell its Russian Absolut Bank for 1 billion euros in December.

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