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Czech Republic: Patria considers its suitors

The pack of acquisitive admirers circling around Patria Finance, Prague's much respected investment-banking firm, is growing bigger. Komercni Banka, the Czech Republic's biggest bank, made the first approach. Then came international investment banks, with Fleming and Merrill Lynch reputedly among them.

Now, in the wake of last month's $4.7 billion acquisition of Belgium's Banque Bruxelles Lambert (BBL) by Holland's ING, the Dutch bank's investment-banking arm, ING Barings, may enter the fray. Patria is 49% owned by MC-BBL, the east European investment-banking joint venture between Hans-Joerg Rudloff's MC Securities and BBL. The Belgian bank has a majority in the venture. To make things even more interesting, ING may be among the bidders for the 34% stake in Komercni Banka that the government plans to sell by year end 1998.

Zdenek Bakala, Patria's cigar-smoking 36-year-old chairman and chief executive, is enjoying the attention. "We are in no rush," he says. "We are way ahead of this year's budget - in fact we are having the best year in our history."

Although the company does not publish its revenues or expenses, Bakala says that in the nine months to September, Patria earned a net income of approximately Kr67 million ($20.3

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