ČSOB bank has been consolidating its position in the Slovak market. The bank's owner, the Belgian banking and insurance group KBC, agreed on March 21 on to buy Istrobanka from the Austrian bank BAWAG. KBC Group will pay BAWAG Ř350 million for Istrobanka, representing 3.5 times its book value, the Pravda daily wrote. This significantly exceeds estimates by Austrian analysts, who had valued Istrobanka at about half its selling price.

As a result of the transaction, KBS's share of the Slovak market will rise to 10 percent, making it the fourth strongest player here. By assets, Istrobanka is the tenth biggest Slovak bank, the SITA newswire wrote.

The transaction has yet to get clearance from the National Bank of Slovakia and the Antitrust Office of the Slovak Republic. If it is approved, the sale should be concluded in the third quarter of this year.

The Slovak market is of key importance for KBC Group: it expects it to grow at a faster pace than any other country in the region.

KBC holds a strong position in other countries. ČSOB is the strongest bank in the Czech Republic and the Belgian group has also recently invested in Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, and Russia.