June 1, 2015 / 3:53 PM / 4 years ago

UPDATE 1-PZU closes in on Raiffeisen's Polish bank purchase

(Adds background and additional information)

WARSAW, June 1 (Reuters) - Poland’s biggest insurer PZU SA has submitted an offer to buy Raiffeisen Polbank, Poland’s seventh largest lender by assets, two sources familiar with the matter said, taking another step towards creating its own banking group.

“They’ve submitted an offer, talks are ongoing, there is no crowd (of investors interested),” one source said. Another said Raiffeisen was the only interested party.

The state-controlled group has just announced it agreed to buy the biggest single stake in Poland’s thirteenth largest lender Alior Bank, paying 1.63 billion zlotys ($431 million) or two times book value, much higher than banks are traded in the western Europe.

But this time the price may be lower, as Raiffeisen Polbank is one of the Polish banks that are most exposed to Swiss franc-denominated mortgage risk, that became a headache for Polish lenders once the franc surged in value this winter.

“The Austrians are ready to accept the price of just 1 times a book value,” one source said. Raiffeisen Polbank’s book value amounts to 6 billion zlotys.

Austria’s Raiffeisen Bank International needs to sell its Polish unit to help shrink its balance sheet and hit a core capital ratio of 12 percent by end-2017.

PZU and Raiffeisen both declined to comment.

The insurer wants to buy three banks this year, and analysts said it may be interested also in buying another mid-tier lender, General Electric’s Bank BPH.

PZU’s plans fit well into changes on the Polish political scene. Opposition’s candidate, socially conservative Andrzej Duda, surprisingly won May presidential elections paving the way for his party, Law and Justice, to win the autumn general elections.

Duda and his party want lenders to gradually come back into Polish hands in a so-called repolonisation scheme. He also wants them to convert Swiss franc-denominated mortgages into zlotys at historical rate and plans to introduce a bank tax.

57 percent of Polish banks are owned by European Union’s giants such as Santander, UniCredit, and ING . ($1 = 3.7834 zlotys) (Reporting by Adrian Krajewski, Pawel Florkiewicz, and Marcin Goclowski; Additional reporting by Alexandra Schwarz-Goerlich in Vienna; Editing by David Holmes and William Hardy)

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