EC deals final blow to Czech ČSOB’s IPO

European Commission clears Czech bank ČSOB owner KBC to proceed with other options rather than sell a large stake in the bank

The Belgian owner of one of the Czech Republic’s biggest banks, ČSOB, says it has been cleared by European authorities to drop its planned IPO in the Czech bank and go ahead instead with a sale of its Polish assets.

KBC Group said after the close of trading Wednesday that it had been given the green light to change its revenue raising strategic plan from that offered in 2009 to the European Commission as a counterpart to public aid from Belgian authorities given at the height of the financial crisis.

“KBC Group today received approval from the European Commission to amend its 2009 strategic plan and to divest its banking (Kredyt Bank) and insurance activities (Warta) in Poland and sell or unwind selected ABS and CDO assets instead of floating minority stakes of CSOB Bank (Czech Republic) and of K&H Bank (Hungary) and selling and leasing back its headquarter offices in Belgium,” the Belgian bank and insurance group said in a statement.

EC approval appears to extinguish any lingering hopes that up to 40 percent of ČSOB might be placed on the Prague bourse.

The approval appears to extinguish any lingering hopes that up to 40 percent of ČSOB might be placed on the Prague Stock Exchange (BCPP) in what would have been a major boost for the trading place.

KBC said in the statement that it will continue to develop it core bank-insurance business model  as the cornerstone of its policy. “Maintaining our stake in our Czech and Hungarian banks will help us to retain our growth options for the future,” the Belgian group added.

Unsolicited expressions of interest had already been received for the Polish bank and insurance company where the “for sale” sign has just been hoisted, KBC said. Warta is Poland’s second biggest insurer.

KBC announced earlier in July that it had revised its earlier restructuring plan hammered out with EU authorities and no longer wanted to put a sizeable chunk of ČSOB up for sale. It cited changes in capital adequacy rules meaning that its original expectations of the gains made from the sale of ČSOB and other assets would fall short of its original expectations.