January 16, 2018 / 12:45 PM / a year ago

Polish regulator refuses Raiffeisen's plan to start new bank

WARSAW, Jan 16 (Reuters) - Polish financial market regulator KNF said on Tuesday it will not approve Austrian Raiffeisen Bank International's plan to start a new bank in Poland, which the lender hoped would help it successfully list the existing Polish unit.

KNF has for years insisted that large banks in Poland list their shares to assure transparency and safety of the sector. The regulator has extended the deadline for Raiffeisen Bank Polska (IPO-RBP.WA) initial public offering earlier this year.

Last year the IPO plan was shelved as investors offered a much lower price for the Polish bank's shares than Raiffeisen was willing to accept because of its Swiss franc-denominated loan portfolio, which is seen by investors as a long-term risk.

In November RBI said it planned to carve out the FX mortgages portfolio and eventually take it over.

Two sources familiar with the situation said on Tuesday that RBI had planned to start a new bank in Poland which would take over the FX portfolio from Raiffeisen Bank Polska and then conduct the new bank's cross-border merger with RBI, hoping that would help make IPO of Raiffeisen Bank Polska successful.

But the regulator said refused to endorse the plan.

"The commission has unanimously refused to issue an approval to launch by Raiffeisen Bank International a bank in a form of a joint-stock company," the regulator said in a statement.

KNF has justified its decision by pointing to RBI's failure to meet requirements to list Raiffeisen Bank Polska on the Warsaw Stock Exchange.

RBI said its the plan "is a measure to facilitate the IPO of RBPL or a potential sale of a majority stake. We continue to work with the KNF to find an acceptable structure."

In November, sources said that BNP Paribas has approached RBI to express interest in buying the Austrian bank's Polish division. (Reporting by Agnieszka Barteczko and Pawel Sobczak, additional reporting by Alexandra Schwarz-Goerlich in Vienna, editing by Louise Heavens)

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