KBC Acquires 92.5% Stake in Russia's Absolut Bank

Belgian bank KBC Group said it has acquired 92.5% of Russian bank Absolut for 761 million euros ($1.03 billion), subject to regulatory approval by the Central Bank of Russia.

Absolut, established in 1993 and based in Moscow, is the seventh largest non-state-owned mortgage lender and offers universal banking services.

It posted a net profit of 20 million euros in 2006. Over the full year, total assets were 1.8 billion euros. The bank's total equity was around 200 mln in the first quarter of 2007.

Absolut has more than 1,600 employees and 39 branches. KBC intends to keep the current key management in place. "KBC's long-term strategic plans entail further expansion in the markets of emerging Europe," said KBC's chief executive Andre Bergen, adding that "Russia is therefore an extension of our existing presence".

KBC expects the deal to be closed during the third quarter of 2007 and added that it will not affect the group's share buyback program. The remaining 7.5% of shares are held by part of the World Bank Group.