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Bank Pekao/ Bank BPH: KNB delays Unicredito decision at request of public prosecutor

16.3.2006 9:28
Autor: KBC/Patria

In an unexpected turn of events yesterday, Poland’s banking supervision commission (KNB) showed signs of bending to political influence, one week after issuing an official statement that the facts of the case would support a positive decision for Unicredito in its takeover of Bank BPH. First, at the request of a prosecutor, (at the meeting on request of the government) a delay of three weeks was agreed to enable the documents to be studied by the prosecutor’s office. Secondly, Leszek Balcerowicz announced that General Inspector of Banking Supervision Wojciech Kwasniak would refrain from voting, to avoid being accused of bias (the employment of his wife by Bank BPH has been criticised by politicians). Unless Kwasniak is replaced, this would bring the number of votes to 6 but could still allow a positive decision, given that Leszek Balcerowicz has the deciding vote and that the PiS has 3 appointees on the KNB.

The question mark is whether any other member of the commission will also refrain from voting due to political pressure - attention is focusing on Head of SEC Jaroslaw Kozlowski. Here, Polish PM Marcinkiewicz has publicly accused Kozlowski of knowing about a letter sent by Unicredito to Pekao Pioneer Investment Management, asking that it not trade shares of Bank BPH, which in the opinion of the government, calls into question the ‘stability of financial markets’ and might ‘negatively impact the returns of fund investors’. Of course, the intent behind the letter would be to avoid conflict of interest, as the companies are part of the same group (possibly, the letter was sent too early). Fortunately, this latest attack hasn’t had much traction with the media, as its been criticised as a baseless argument by commentators.

Whilst the level of uncertainty has increased again with respect to the outcome of the KNB decision, we reiterate our view that Unicredito has a strong case and will not walk away. Therefore, despite the delays, we maintain our Buy rating on Bank Pekao, which we believe is the most attractively valued bank in Poland.

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