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Ditz optimistic about sales

Hypo Group Alpe Adria (HGAA) supervisory board head Johannes Ditz has said he is confident that the bank will manage to sell two affiliates.

The former Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) economy minister said today (Thurs) HGAA managed to "get rid of all possible risk factors" which could endanger a sale of its Austrian and Italian subsidiary companies. HGAA Austria has around 50,000 customers. Both the Austrian branch of HGAA and its Italian affiliate are engaged in non-banking business activities as well. Ditz and HGAA CEO Gottwald Kranebitter tried to sell most of the participations HGAA held in private companies to restore its finances and reset the focus on its core business of private banking.

The bank announced last year it decided to withdraw from nautical leasing operations in Southeast Europe. HGAA leased 320 ships as of October 2011. Bank officials said the plan was to totally abandon this business branch. They also rejected speculations that 400 HGAA vessels had been stolen only in 2009. There were only nine such cases that year, according to a HGAA spokesman.

HGAA has also been busy selling most of the properties it owned in southern Austria and numerous foreign countries – including Schlosshotel Velden, a hotel situated at Lake Wörthersee in Carinthia, Austria. Karl Wlaschek’s Amisola Immobillien AG, acquired the well-known property last year. Neither HGAA nor the Austrian entrepreneur disclosed the takeover price. Wlaschek is one of the richest Austrians. The 94-year-old businessman is understood to possess assets and real estate worth 3.5 billion Euros. His foundation owns 250 properties in Austria, including 10 hotels.

Kranebitter recently explained the HGAA board wanted to remain active in Southeast Europe due to the bank’s solid performance in the economically volatile but also promising region. Kranebitter said that providing the area’s small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) was something HGAA would not abandon despite its current austerity strategy.

Ditz was installed as head of the HGAA supervisory board by the Austrian government coalition of Social Democrats (SPÖ) and ÖVP in January 2010, a few weeks following the bank’s nationalisation. Ex-HGAA managers carried out a fast expansion abroad before they allegedly manipulated performance reports to cover up the bank’s soaring losses. State prosecutors in Munich, Germany and the Austrian cities of Vienna and Klagenfurt are investigating.

Ditz told the Kurier newspaper today he was currently concentrating on avoiding that HGAA needed further fresh capital from the Republic of Austria which provided the struggling bank with more than 1.5 billion Euros in the past years. HGAA achieved a profit for the first time in four years. The bank’s executive board said last week that it had made a profit of 59 million Euros in 2011. HGAA suffered a loss of more than one billion Euros in the previous year and almost 1.6 billion Euros in 2009. HGAA’s total assets were reduced from 39 billion to 55 billion Euros from 2010 to 2011, according to Kranebitter.

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