(Updates with Serbia’s central bank statement, Sava’s decision) to sell Gorenjska stake to AIK)
By Marja Novak
LJUBLJANA/BELGRADE, Jan 30 (Reuters) - Serbia’s central bank has withdrawn permission for local lender AIK bank to acquire a majority stake in Slovenia’s Gorenjska Banka and its Slovenian counterpart said it may follow suit.
The Serbian central bank said it had uncovered irregularities in AIK’s operations and the acquisition could further expose AIK and jeopardise its financial position.
“Therefore, in line with its authority, it (the central bank) undertook necessary measures towards the AIK bank and cancelled its previously granted permission ... for further acquisition of shares in the Gorenjska Banka,” the statement from the National Bank of Serbia said.
It gave no details on the nature of the irregularities.
AIK would have to reapply for a new central bank permit, pending evaluation of it meeting all legal requirements, it added. AIK was not available for a comment.
The Bank of Slovenia said it was considering all relevant information regarding the capability of AIK to be a majority owner of Gorenjska.
“If it turned out that AIK does not fulfill conditions for a qualified (majority) owner of Gorenjska Banka ... procedures to withdraw the approval for a qualified ownership can be started,” the Slovenian central bank said.
AIK owns 21 percent of Gorenjska and last year gained approval from the Slovenian central bank to buy a majority stake. In December it said it plans to announce a takeover bid for all shares of Gorenjska. Shareholders of financial and tourism group Sava, Gorenjska’s largest investor owner, decided on Tuesday to sell Sava’s 29 percent of Gorenjska to AIK at a price of 298 euros per share which would value the whole bank at 115.6 million euros ($143 million), providing AIK acquires all necessary regulatory approvals for the takeover in 45 days.
Gorenjska did not comment on the information regarding AIK but said separately that Chief Executive Andrej Andoljsek had decided to step down by March 31.
“Andrej Andoljsek decided to end his mandate early amid expected ownership changes and consequently the changes of management and operations of the bank,” Gorenjska said.
Gorenjska has a market stake of about 4.7 percent in Slovenia, according to balance sheet assets. ($1 = 0.8074 euros) (Reporting By Marja Novak, additional reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic in Belgrade; Editing by Peter Graff/Keith Weir)