The Hungarian OTP Bank resumed negotiations on the purchase of Ipoteka-Bank, stated the financial director of the bank, László Bencik, during a meeting with investors about the results for the first quarter.
According to him, a memorandum of understanding was signed with Uzbekistan in October.
“We have resumed the [purchase] process and are conducting another due diligence. And we think there's a good chance the deal could go through. We are actually very motivated and interested in this move and in this country. Specifically, regarding Ipoteka-Bank, we believe that this is a very, very attractive investment opportunity,” he said.
László Bencik noted that the attractiveness of the country for investment increased after OTP Bank suspended the deal in the spring due to the war in Ukraine.
Answering questions from investors, he noted the improvement in the overall economic situation in Uzbekistan, the growth in real estate prices, as well as "a significant improvement in the value proposition of the bank itself."
“They came up with a very, very modern mobile banking solution that I think rivals the best in Europe in terms of service level. And that's just in the last eight months. I think that from a geopolitical point of view, Uzbekistan has positioned itself very wisely in this conflict. In any case, I think they are attractive geopolitically - the attractiveness of the country has increased, and they have stepped up their efforts to move the economy into a kind of market environment. They seem to do what they say,” he said.
László Bencik noted that in Uzbekistan, GDP growth was expected at 5% in 2022, while in most of Europe there will be a strong slowdown. He also pointed to a further decline in inflation.
When asked about the timing of closing the deal, an OTP Bank spokesman said: "If it's up to us, the sooner the better."
Back in June 2019, it was reported that the government’s stake in Ipoteka-Bank would be below 50% by the end of 2022, the bank would be transformed and privatized with the participation of the International Finance Corporation.
In September 2021, Deputy PM Jamshid Kuchkarov announced the sale of a 75% stake in Ipoteka Bank to the Hungarian OTP Bank. It was planned to complete the transaction within two months.
In April, OTP Bank asked Uzbekistan to postpone the deal for two to three months, noting the continued interest in the bank.