Moldova’s Largest Bank Prepares For Sale

The Moldovan government looks set to make an official offer to buy a 41 per cent stake in the country’s largest bank, Moldova-Agroindbank (MAIB), which holds almost a third of all the country’s retail deposits.

The stake, which belongs to shareholders the Moldovan National Bank (BNM) has identified as having broken banking laws and who are as such such obliged to sell them, will cost just over 23 million euros, thought by some analysts to be less than half of its real market price. The reduced price reflects the fact that those shareholders are currently suing the BNM in order to keep their stake.

The Moldovan state is not the only party interested in the MAIB shares, however. An unnamed consortium of three international investors officially notified BNM that they were interested back on May 4. The BNM is currently carrying out due diligence on the consortium.

Moldova Agroindbank is one of three Moldovan banks currently subject to special supervisory measures, put in place in 2015 in the aftermath of the Moldovan banking scandal. The others are Victoriabank and Moldindconbank. While the three banks were not directly involved in the scandal, in which 1 billion US dollars disappeared from three other banks (Banca de Economii, Unibank and Banca Socială), the measures were deemed necessary to protect retail clients: between them, MAIB, Victoriabank and Moldindconbank account for more than two-thirds of the Moldovan market.

A successful sale of the Moldova-Agroindbank shares would be another signal that the Moldovan banking sector is slowly recovering from the scandal. In January, Banca Transilvania, Romania’s second-largest bank, finalised the purchase of a 39 per cent stake in Victoriabank, the first time since 2007 that a foreign bank had entered the Moldovan retail market as an investor. The deal made Banca Transilvania the single largest largest shareholder in Victoriabank, which together with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), a minority shareholder, now jointly hold a controlling stake of 66.7 per cent in the Moldovan bank.

EBRD chief Sir Suma Chakrabarti met Moldova’s Foreign Minister and Minister of European Integration Tudor Ulianovschi in London on June 19 and promised the country the bank’s full support for the continuation of reform.

“Reform of the banking sector is one of the main priorities for the remainder of the EBRD’s 2017-2020 Moldova Strategy,” said Sir Suma.

Photo: Rise Moldova