The Slovenia Times

Testing Year Ahead for Small Banks



Gorenjska banka looks like it could be the most problematic bank in 2014 after stress tests revealed a capital shortfall of 328m under the worst case scenario.

The bank has until June to beef up its capital, but its biggest single shareholder, the conglomerate Sava, is struggling to turn a corner and is unlikely to be able to secure the funding.

The bank's capital base was further eroded with the write-off of its 14% stake in the renationalised Abanka, and it has been hit by revelations of wrongdoing in the financing of a management buyout.

The most likely outcomes, therefore, are renationalisation or sale to a foreign investor, a fate that also awaits Banka Celje.

Banka Celje has a capital shortfall of EUR 388m according to the stress tests and its biggest shareholder is the renationalised NLB bank, which holds a 41% stake.

There are several other major state-owned shareholders, meaning that the bank is effectively in state ownership as well.

Government representatives have so far been mum about plans for Banka Celje, but pundits believe the bank will most likely be absorbed by NLB.

The stress tests also included three foreign-owned banks that have to shore up their capital base, but they have effectively already been bailed out by their parent banks.

Raiffeisen received a capital injection in late December, Hypo Alpe Adria offloaded non-performing assets onto an internal bad bank and Unicredit banka Slovenije had a negligible capital shortfall according to the stress tests.

While Raiffeisen and Hypo are slated for sale by their shareholders and will likely play a side role in the bank sector consolidation, Unicredit is ideally positioned to play a starring role.

Unicredit boss Stefan Vavti did not wish to discuss possible acquisition plans, telling the STA that the bank has so far "grown organically". But he acknowledged "all business opportunities" were being examined.

Another foreign-owned bank well-placed to capitalise on the consolidation is SKB, which is owned by Societe Generale of France and was not a part of the stress tests.

SKB would not discuss the possibility of taking part in bank privatisation and consolidation, saying its business plans were "trade secrets".

Similarly, Banka Koper, owned by Intesa SanPaolo of Italy, has emerged from the crisis unscathed. It is being mentioned as a potential buyer for Gorenjska banka.

Whatever the developments are, Slovenia's banking market will look very different in 2014. Some banks will be acquired, other absorbed, yet others probably nationalised.

The costs of these operations will have to be added to the roughly EUR 3.6bn that the government directly spent on bank recapitalisation in 2013.


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