ISLAMABAD: Four potential bidders are in competition to acquire SME Bank Ltd (SBL) as the Privatisation Commission is gearing up to open data room for buy-side diligence of the bank.

In response to the Privatisation Commission’s invitation for acquiring majority stake in the SBL, five parties expressed interest and three of them are internationally recognised financial institutions — FINCA Microfinance Bank, Saudi-Pak Industrial and Agricultural Investment Bank and Lanka Orix Leasing Company — have been pre-qualified after a thorough evaluation.

However, Lanka Orix Leasing Company, a Sri Lanka-based financial institution, withdrew from the process citing its inability due to strict exchange control regime of Sri Lanka.

Privatisation Minister Daniyal Aziz on Wednesday approved fresh measures to proceed with the sell-off process of the SBL, aiming to conclude the transaction before the end of 2017-18.

SME Bank has been incurring continuous losses since 2010 resulting in accumulated losses to the tune of Rs2.7 billion, while continuing to remain exempted from the Minimum Capital Requirement (MCR) prescribed by the State Bank.

Published in Dawn, February 1st, 2018

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