Austria re-opens sale of Hypo Balkan network, say sources-Reuters

(Reuters) – Austria has re-opened the sale of the Balkan network of nationalized bank Hypo Alpe Adria , with no exclusivity for a bidder group led by Advent International, sources close to the matter said on Friday.

Hypo had agreed in principle to sell the asset to U.S. private equity group Advent and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).

But after an extended deadline for a contract signing expired late on Thursday, other suitors who had submitted formal bids will be allowed back into the process, the sources said on condition they not be identified.

They stressed the sale process was still on, but would take weeks longer to wrap up, pushing a deal into next year. Advent had said on Thursday it was still working to clinch a deal.

State holding company FIMBAG, which bought the asset from Hypo at the end of last month pending a deal with Advent, is now in charge of selling the business, the sources said. Hypo had been in charge.

A group of Bulgarian investors led by airline and property owner Denis Barekov and backed by Russian financial group VTB had been in the hunt, as had Russian investor Igor Kim’s Expobank, sources had told Reuters.

The Austrian finance ministry and Hypo, now called Heta Asset Resolution after being converted into a “bad bank” to wind down remaining assets, declined comment.

The European Commission last year ordered Hypo to sign a contract to sell the Balkans unit, made up of banks and leasing companies in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia, by mid-2015 as a condition for allowing state aid. The Balkans deal has to close by the end of next year.

German lender BayernLB sold Hypo to Austria in 2009 for a token sum in a nationalisation that staved off Hypo’s collapse after a decade of breakneck expansion at home and in the Balkans.