BUDAPEST, June 24 (Reuters) - Hungary will spend 100 billion forints ($437 million) to reorganise the country’s cooperative banks, the government spokesman was quoted as saying on Monday.
Hungary’s state-development bank MFB took a 39.4 percent stake in Takarekbank, the umbrella group for savings cooperatives, last year and Prime Minister Viktor Orban said the government wanted to use their network of around 1,600 branches to boost lending and promote economic growth.
Spokesman Andras Giro-Szasz told national news agency MTI that the government would raise the 100 billion forints - the equivalent of 27 percent of Takarekbank’s total balance sheet in 2011 - by selling state assets.
He did not give details on assets that might be sold, or on what the reorganisation might entail.
Hungary’s financial sector is dominated by foreign lenders, such as Belgium’s KBC, Italy’s Intesa Sanpaolo and UniCredit, and Austria’s Erste Bank and Raiffeisen.
Orban has said he would like to see “at least 50 percent” Hungarian ownership of the banking system over time, compared with around 90-percent foreign ownership currently.
Savings cooperative have about 5 percent of the Hungarian banking market according to Takarekbank’s web site, but their network accounts for roughly 40 percent of all bank branches in the country.
The central bank, led by Governor Gyorgy Matolcsy, Orban’s former economy minister, has recently boosted its lending programme to provide small businesses with cheap loans via commercial banks after strong demand from companies.
The bank has said it may extend the programme in September.
$1 = 228.37 Hungarian forints Reporting by Gergely Szakacs; Editing by Mark Potter