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Business news in Slovenia

Croatian regulator approves NLB's entry into leasing market

Ljubljana, 28 June (STA) - The Croatian regulator has approved the indirect acquisition of the outright stake in the Croatian leasing firm Mobil Leasing by the Slovenian NLB bank. NLB is acquiring the leasing firm that controls slightly more than a 3% market share in Croatia through the acquisition of Summit Leasing Slovenija.

The approval comes after NLB agreed last November with the US fund Apollo and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) to acquire 100% stake in SLS Holdco, the parent company of Summit Leasing Slovenija, and its subsidiaries.

The funds managed by affiliates of Apollo Global Management and the EBRD had retained the leasing company after selling the banking group NKBM to the Hungarian OTP group in 2021.

The subsidiaries include the Croatian leasing firm Mobil Leasing, so NLB had to get the approval of the Croatian Financial Services Supervisory Agency (HANFA).

This approval is only one of the regulatory and anti-trust approvals that the bank needs to get to complete the transaction, which is planned for the second half of 2024.

According to HANFA, Mobil Leasing controls 3.3% percent of the Croatian leasing services market and currently has 3,500 active vehicle financing contracts.

With Croatia being the only country in the region where NLB is not present yet, the bank has been trying to enter this market for many years, but has been unable to because of the dispute between Slovenia and Croatia after the break-up of Yugoslavia and the debt of the Croatian branch of LB, the precursor of NLB, to Croatian savers.

The claims against NLB were transferred to the state when the bank was sold to private capital in 2018.

The agency announced on Friday that NLB meets all the conditions for the acquisition of a qualifying ownership stake, and that the acquisition is not hindered by the open procedures regarding the transferred foreign currency savings.

The Croatian banks Zagrebačka Banka and Privredna Banka Zagreb are suing NLB on behalf of Croatia over the transfer of these savings from the LB branch to Croatian commercial banks.

The principal amount from all lawsuits amounts to EUR 171 million, and due to the length of the court proceedings the interest has in the meantime exceeded the principal amount.

In August 2018, the National Assembly passed a law to protect Slovenia's capital investment in NLB, based on which the Succession Fund will compensate NLB the amounts that will be enforced from it based on final court decisions in Croatia.

NLB is also trying to return to the Croatian market by publishing a voluntary takeover bid for the Austrian Addiko Bank which, in addition to Slovenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro, is also present in Croatia.

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