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Which way for UniCredit/HVB?

Boards are faced with a tough decision on a structure to combine the banks' strengths in central and eastern Europe


Executives at the soon-to-be merged UniCredit/HVB are considering two models for its central and eastern Europe business, according to sources. The final decision could also influence who will eventually run the new bank's operations in the region.

One potential structure is to merge all of UniCredit's CEE holdings into Bank Austria, HVB's subsidiary that is responsible for the German bank's CEE operations. The other possibility is to place UniCredit's and Bank Austria's combined central and eastern Europe assets into a new holding company.

Details on the final model have yet to be hammered out, according to a source at Bank Austria. Erich Hampel, Bank Austria's chairman, is expected to run the CEE business for the new bank, although that could change if the second structure is adopted.

Then, sources suggest, the eventual head will be Alois Steinbichler, UniCredit's deputy chairman of Croatian subsidiary Zagrebacka Banka. Steinbichler was in charge of bank acquisitions at Bank Austria until 2001, when its separate CEE division was merged into the bank.

He then left to join UniCredit as its head of international strategy, and was in charge of trouble shooting at Polish subsidiary Pekao before joining the Zagrebacka board.

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