VIENNA Austria's Raiffeisen Bank International and its parent Raiffeisen Zentralbank left open on Thursday the issue of who will lead them if their planned merger is completed, and said talks on the deal price would probably drag on for months.
The banks said on Wednesday they had decided to go ahead with their proposed merger, aimed primarily at boosting the capital buffers of Raiffeisen Zentralbank (RZB), after they came third-last in a stress test of major European lenders.
Addressing widespread media and market speculation that Heinrich Schaller who heads Raiffeisenlandesbank Oberoesterreich, would become head of the merged entity, RZB chief Walter Rothensteiner told a news conference that no decision had been taken on who would be in charge.
Under the plan, unlisted RZB will be merged into Raiffeisen Bank International (RBI), in exchange for which RZB shareholders will receive shares in RBI. But talks on exactly how many shares will change hands appear to be more difficult than expected, and the two sides have only agreed on a range so far.
"It will be a relatively long road until we get there," RBI Chief Executive Karl Sevelda told the same news conference, adding that the talks on both companies' valuations had been "intensive".
RBI's shares rose on Thursday morning after the banks gave the go-ahead for the merger plan and were up 2 percent at 14.28 euros at 0858 GMT. Rothensteiner said a price would be announced on or close to a Dec. 23 deadline.
The valuation of RBI's Polish unit Polbank was one of the reasons the talks on the price were dragging on, Sevelda said. RBI is in exclusive talks with Poland's Alior Bank on selling Polbank's core assets.
(Reporting by Francois Murphy. Editing by Jane Merriman and Susan Fenton)