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Banking

Idea Bank takeover by Pekao raises spectre of state expansion

The saga of Poland’s Idea Bank has finally been resolved with a forced takeover by number two player Pekao. But questions remain over the role of the state.

UniCredit's Polish unit Bank Pekao logo is seen on their branch in Warsaw

The takeover of troubled Polish lender Idea Bank by larger rival Bank Pekao has eased fears of a costly bank failure in the country, but has also raised concerns about the expansion of political influence in the sector.

State-controlled Bank Pekao, Poland’s second-largest lender, announced on New Year’s Eve that it would take control of Idea Bank, a small and medium-sized enterprise-focused lender owned by local businessman Leszek Czarnecki.

The announcement was no surprise to markets. Idea Bank’s capital levels were well below minimum requirements and the lender had been under the supervision of the country’s Bank Guarantee Fund (BGF) since May 2019.

“Pekao was seen as a natural buyer given its state ownership and capital position,” analysts at UBS note.

Set up in 2010, Idea Bank’s business model was based on providing credit to micro and small business customers based on their transaction history, which was to be derived from the accounting services that the bank offered in tandem.

Losses

While the offer of ancillary accounting services proved popular and was rapidly copied by larger Polish lenders such as ING Bank Slaski and mBank, a persistently high cost of risk meant that Idea Bank was unable to make a profit on its loan book.

The

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