Romania’s Banca Transilvania moves into Moldova
First foreign investor for troubled sector since 2007; Bancpost acquisition boosts lender to top of domestic market.
Moldova’s crisis-hit banking sector moved a step closer to recovery with the announcement in November that Romania’s Banca Transilvania has agreed to take over troubled lender Victoriabank.
News of the acquisition, which will be the first by a foreign bank in Moldova since 2007, came almost exactly three years after $1 billion was stolen from three of the country’s leading banks in as many days. The resultant bailout cost more than 10% of Moldova’s annual GDP and prompted an overdue clean-up of the banking sector.
As well as the closure of banks involved in the fraud, this saw three other lenders – Victoriabank, Moldova Agroindbank (MAIB) and Moldinconbank – put under central bank supervision over concerns about corporate governance.
Owners of substantial stakes in all three subsequently had their voting rights suspended and were ordered to dispose of their holdings.
Victoriabank, Moldova’s third-largest lender, is the first to find a buyer. Banca Transilvania will acquire an initial 39.2% stake in the lender from Insidown, a Cyprus-based company registered to a little-known Russian businessman.
“The announcement by Banca Transilvania is important and symbolic,” says Sergiu Cioclea, Moldova’s central bank governor.