Banks owned by two of Ukraine’s richest tycoons have decided to merge their ATM networks in order to better compete with their Ukrainian competitors who have in recent years established themselves as leaders on the market, Kyiv Post reported.

Ukrsotsbank, a top-five Ukrainian bank in the process of being sold by businessman and former lawmaker Viktor Pinchuk to Italy’s Banca Intesa, announced the deal with First Ukrainian International Bank (FUIB), owned by companies connected to Donetsk tycoon Rinat Akhmetov, in early April.

Another Ukrainian bank, ProCredit Bank, is also expected to take part in the ATM merger, the details of which are still being worked out, according to Ukrsotsbank’s press service. The banks are expected to finalize the conditions of the merger later this month.

Ukrsotsbank and ProCredit Bank said that the combined customers of the two banks and their partners will soon be able to use a much larger network of 1,400 ATMs.

However, this number will still be nowhere near the network size of Privatbank’s 3,142 ATMs.

Privat Bank, which regularly ranks number one in net assets and branch network size, is owned by the so-called Privat Group, headed by businessmen Ihor Kolomojsky, Hennady Bogolubov and Oleksy Martynov. The Privat Group is widely considered to be a fierce business competitor of Pinchuk.

According to the Ukrainian Interbank Payment Systems Member Association, known as EMA, FUIB and Ukrsotsbank issued approximately 468,700 and nearly 1.2 million payment cards, respectively, as of March 2006. Both banks have expressed plans for general expansion.

Ukrsotsbank said that it expanded its ATM network by 92 percent in 2005 and currently operates 535 ATMs nationwide. The bank announced last week that it expects to have issued 1.5 million payment cards by the end of this year and to expand its ATM network to 700 machines by the end of 2007.

ProCredit Bank, whose owners include the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and International Finance Corporation, currently operates 40 ATMs in Ukraine, while FIUB, a mid-sized bank in terms of net assets, operates 217 ATMs nationwide, according to EMA.

In February, Italy’s Banca Intesa inked a deal to purchase more than 85 percent in Ukrsotsbank for just over $1 billion, but the deal has been blocked by minority shareholders connected to the Privat Group.Other significant buyouts in Ukraine’s banking industry include Raiffeisen banking group’s billion-dollar purchase of Aval Bank last fall and the sale of a 51 percent stake in Ukrsibbank to France’s PNB Paribas for about half a billion dollars. All three banks attracted foreign investors by virtue of their large branch networks, viewed as an attractive asset for developing retail banking.


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