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Media: Hungary's OTP Bank Group, which still works in Russia, interested in buying Ukrainian state-owned bank

by Dinara Khalilova and The Kyiv Independent news desk February 12, 2024 2:15 PM 2 min read
A Sense Bank branch in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Jan. 16, 2023. (Okondrat/Wikipedia)
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Hungarian banking group OTP Bank, which was once added to Kyiv's international sponsors of war list, expressed interest in buying Ukraine's state-owned Sense Bank, Ukrainska Pravda media outlet reported on Feb. 12, citing unnamed sources familiar with acquisition talks.

The report comes several weeks after Ukraine's Deputy Finance Minister Yurii Drahanchuk said that foreign investors were interested in purchasing Sense Bank and another state-owned bank, Ukrgasbank.

Both banks were among the 10 most profitable banks in Ukraine in 2023. Sense Bank, a Ukrainian branch of Russian oligarch Mikhail Fridman's Alfa-Bank, was nationalized in the summer of 2023 as its owner had been placed under sanctions. Ukrgasbank is a Ukrainian commercial bank founded in 1993.

OTP Bank, an alleged potential buyer of Sense Bank, is Hungary's largest commercial bank and one of the largest financial service providers in Central and Eastern Europe.

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The company operates both in Ukrainian and Russian markets, with the latter being a potential challenge for the purchase of Sense Bank, according to Ukrainska Pravda.

Ukraine's National Agency on Corruption Prevention designated OTP as an "international sponsor of war" in May last year, which Hungary then used as a justification to block EU defense aid to Ukraine.

Ukraine provisionally removed OTP Bank from the list in October 2023 in the hope that this would lead to Hungary unblocking 500 million euros (around $538 million) in military aid from the EU. In response, Budapest said it "still needs guarantees" that the bank will not be reinstated to the list.

If the alleged deal takes place, and the Ukrainian branch of OTP Bank is merged with Sense Bank, the new bank may become Ukraine's fourth largest bank in terms of net assets after PrivatBank, Oschadbank, and Ukreximbank, Ukrainska Pravda wrote.

The Ukrainian branch of OTP Bank told Ukrainska Pravda they are "not authorized to comment on the group's intentions," and Ukraine's Finance Ministry has not responded to a request for comment.

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