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Bank Pekao/BPH: government declares Unicredito in violation of 1999 privatisation agreement

25.1.2006 9:15
Autor: KBC/Patria

Treasury Minister Andrzej Szalmacha has stated that the government's objection to the Unicredito takeover of Bank BPH is not based on an evaluation of market concentration (competition) but on grounds that Unicredito has breached its 1999 privatisation agreement (in relation to the acquisition for Bank Pekao). According to the privatisation agreement, Unicredito is obliged not to compete directly or indirectly with Bank Pekao or buy shares in competing companies (limited to 10%). He repeated the government's call for Unicredito to sell its stake in Bank BPH, giving Unicredito until the end of January to complete the transaction. Unicredito was asked to respond to the government's demands before its requested meeting between CEO Alessandro Profumo and PM Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz.

Unicredito responded yesterday by stating that its actions are in complete accord with the intention of the non-competition clause of the privatisation agreement - to develop Bank Pekao. At the same time, lawyers for Unicredito have stated that, in any case, Poland's entry into the EU in 2004 invalidated the clause. To us, the government's case appears to rest on a technicality, which will now face scrutiny by the European Commission, which has stated that it has strong concerns in this case related to the free movement of capital and asked Poland for a written justification in 15 days. The treasury ministry has agreed to meet with the European Commission to provide an explanation.

It may still be too early to assume that no room for negotiation exists between the two parties but clearly there has been an escalation of the conflict and a court battle seems increasingly likely. With apparent support from the EU commission, we believe Unicredito has good reason to be optimistic about the outcome, though not without some degree of uncertainty. The market appears to agree for the most part, as the newsflow created only modest pressure on stock prices yesterday, with Bank Pekao down 2.7% and Bank BPH down 0.6%.


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