S.Korea’s Kookmin cuts planned Kazakh bank stake

Aug 7. Reuters. ALMATY

By Masha Gordeyeva

* CenterCredit CEO says Kookmin drops plans to buy control
* Says Kookmin will raise stake to 41 pct from 30.6 pct
* Says World Bank’s IFC will buy 10 pct stake

S.Korea's Kookmin cuts planned Kazakh bank stakeSouth Korea’s biggest lender Kookmin Bank has scrapped its plan to buy a controlling stake in Kazakh bank CenterCredit and will limit its participation to 41 percent, CenterCredit said on Friday.

The World Bank’s private sector arm, the International Finance Corporation, will instead buy a 10 percent stake, CenterCredit Chief Executive Vladislav Lee told Reuters in an interview.

“We hope this deal (with Kookmin) will be closed within three to four months,” Lee said.

“The only change is that during the talks a new potential shareholder has emerged, the International Finance Corporation.”

He said the IFC would also give CenterCredit, Kazakhstan’s fifth-largest bank, an $85 million subordinated loan to boost its capital as the bank increases provisions against bad loans.

“Kookmin Bank did not object to this,” Lee said.

“Our key argument was that the presence of another large international financial institution among the major shareholders of CenterCredit would boost the bank’s stability and make it a better investment opportunity.”

Kookmin Bank, a unit of KB Financial Group, spent about $640 million buying a 30.6 percent stake in CenterCredit (BCC) last year.

Lee said CenterCredit would remain profitable this year with net income of about $10 million despite loan loss provisions which are expected to grow to 12.5-13 percent of loan book.

Three Kazakh lenders went into default this year citing large loan losses or fraud, hitting global confidence in the country’s banking sector.

But unlike some of its peers who borrowed aggressively abroad before the global crisis, CenterCredit has relatively modest foreign debt of $1.4 billion with a $500 million Eurobond falling due in 2014, Lee said.