Bulgaria central bank approves sale of Credit Agricole unit
The Bulgarian National Bank (BNB) said on May 7 that it has approved the sale of the Bulgarian subsidiary of French group Credit Agricole to Bulgaria’s fourth-largest lender, Corporate Commercial Bank (CCB).
CCB will pay 92 million leva for full control of Credit Agricole Bulgaria, according to the BNB statement – the first time that the transaction’s value has been made public. As expected, the central bank had no objections to the deal.
Credit Agricole Bulgaria is one of the smaller lenders in Bulgaria, with assets worth 480 million leva (about 245 million euro) at the end of September 2013. CCB’s assets at the same point were 6.7 billion leva (3.42 billion euro).
Credit Agricole took full ownership of its Bulgarian subsidiary in 2012, as part of the reshuffle at its Greek unit Emporiki, which the group later sold to Greek lender Alpha Bank for one euro – underscoring the group’s desire to exit its Greek venture, which many analysts described as disastrous.
CCB announced the proposed acquisition of Credit Agricole Bulgaria in a regulatory disclosure to the Bulgarian Stock Exchange, where it is listed, in January. The bank said that the deal would strengthen CCB’s position on the retail segment of the market, with the lender saying that the Credit Agricole branches would be rebranded and focus on services to small and medium-sized enterprises and retail businesses.
CCB and its majority shareholder Tsvetan Vassilev have a controversial reputation in Bulgaria. Some allege that it is one of the key behind-the-scenes players in Bulgarian politics, holding of a vast share of government-owned companies’ deposits, and link him to one of the largest media groups in the country – an allegation that both Vassilev and the media group have vehemently rejected.
(Bulgarian National Bank. Photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)