(Updates with quote, details, background)
By Marja Novak
LJUBLJANA, Nov 29 (Reuters) - Slovenia’s largest bank Nova Ljubljanska Banka (NLB) reported a doubling in profit in the first nine months of 2017, partly due to profits from Balkan units of the state-owned institution.
The results were announced as talks continued with the European Union on Slovenia’s commitment to sell a majority stake. The government pledged to sell the stake after giving the bank state aid in 2013, but has yet to complete the deal.
The unlisted bank reported a group net profit of 184 million euros ($218.10 million) in the first nine months of 2017 compared with 91.5 million a year earlier,
The bank also said in a statement it cut its bad loans to 11.9 percent of lending from 12.6 percent at the end of June.
“The exceptionally good business results are ... boosted by the core markets outside Slovenia where the group can make up for the highly competitive conditions in Slovenia,” head of NLB’s supervisory board Primoz Karpe said.
NLB also owns banks in Macedonia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia. Its units outside Slovenia accounted for 73.8 million euros of the group’s net profit.
Finance Minister Mateja Vranicar Erman met EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager on Thursday but said no final decision on NLB’s privatisation has been made yet, although it had agreed a deadline to complete the deal by the end of 2017.
The government abandoned the planned sale of 50 percent of NLB in June, saying the expected price of at least 1.1 billion euros for the whole bank was too low.
The Finance Ministry said Slovenia had proposed naming an independent caretaker for the bank in exchange of delaying the sale.
The European Commission gave no comment on the proposal but its spokesman Ricardo Cardoso said in a statement sent to Reuters: “The partial sale of Slovenia’s stake in NLB is an important commitment to ensure the bank’s long-term viability.”
$1 = 0.8437 euros Reporting by Marja Novak; Editing by Edmund Blair