The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is ready to help further consolidation in the Polish banking sector by buying minority stakes in merging banks, the EBRD’s regional president said on Wednesday.
Poland’s banks saw a series of deals in recent years as low interest rates make it difficult for smaller banks to compete and to deliver good returns.
Last year the EBRD agreed to buy a 4.5% stake in Bank BGŻ BNP Paribas, supporting the acquisition of Raiffeisen Bank Polska with its 430 million zloty ($110 million) investment.
“If one of the players has an appetite and ability to take over another bank, improving the sector’s competitiveness … EBRD is ready to support it with capital,” Grzegorz Zielinski, head of Central and Eastern Europe EBRD operations told Reuters.
At the moment, among those banks put up for sale are struggling Getin Noble Bank (GNB.WA) and Idea Bank (IDE.WA), both belonging to millionaire Leszek Czarnecki.
“If a new investor invited by the current owner appeared and we could play a positive role there, we would be ready for talks. We will not play an active role in this process. We do understand this is a problem for both the current owner and the whole banking sector,” Zielinski said in an interview on the sidelines of the economic conference in southern Poland.
EBRD, a London-based international lender, was founded in 1991 in order to support the transition of former Soviet block countries into market economies.
Zielinski said that EBRD will invest around 700 million euros this year in Poland, up from 560 million euros in 2018. Less than one third of the 2019 investment will be earmarked for energy sector investments.
The organization has praised Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party for its recent shift toward cleaner energy sources.
“We observe a gigantic positive change. The government has stopped being a Don Quixote figure fighting the windmills and has started to think in a modern way of renewable sustainable growth, greenhouse gases, emission reduction…This is a 360-degrees change. A big thing,” Zielinski said.
He also expressed his hope that the EBRD would be a part of the financing of Poland’s first offshore wind farms in either 2020 or 2021.