Societe Generale is about to sell its Bulgarian Expressbank subsidiary, which controls the group’s leasing operations in the country, to Hungarian banking group OTP, according to reports.
Sources told Reuters the deal, close to being finalised, would also involve the divestment of SocGen’s operations in Albania. Reports of the sale had already appeared on Bulgarian business weekly Capital in April, citing a rejected bid of €380m.
Societe Generale Expressbank is the parent of SOGELease Bulgaria, SocGen’s foothold in the country’s leasing market. Would-be buyer OTP controls DSK, Bulgaria’s second-largest lender, which also has a leasing division.
“The deal [in Bulgaria] has been largely agreed. The central bank has already held a preliminary meeting with DSK Bank over it,” one of two sources said.
A spokesperson for Societe Generale Equipment Finance (SGEF) in Paris declined to comment.
The report follows on from multiple indiscretions since March that SocGen was looking to dispose of operations in Poland and a number of Balkan countries. Talks reportedly involved OTP and private equity firm Apollo Global Management, which has been building up investment in the leasing sector over the last few years.
SocGen’s retreat from smaller but expanding markets in central and eastern Europe runs counter to multiple rival’s strategy to build or increase presence in the region.
Last year, DLL and Austria’s Erste Group signed a memorandum of understanding to tap into what they said is a leasing market with business potential of €17bn (£15bn). Erste went to acquire Slovenia’s Aleasing.
Societe Generale was last month reported to be in talks to merge with Italy’s UniCredit, which has a larger and stronger presence in eastern Europe’s retail and leasing segments.
Bulgaria saw a 13% year-on-year increase in new leasing business in the first half 2017, to €422m, according to Leaseurope’s latest available data. UniCredit’s Bulbank is the top bank in terms of all-round lending, closely tailed by DSK.