Bosnia's Bobar bank shut, big depositors face losses

By Reuters

Dec 25, 2014 08:31 PM EST

Bosnian lender Bobar Banka has been shut after its shareholders failed to come up with a recovery plan, the regional banking agency said, leaving its clients, including major state firms, at risk of losing some of their 250 million Bosnian marka ($156 million) in deposits.

Savo Sevaljevic, who was appointed as the bank's interim administrator in late November, was quoted by local media on Wednesday as saying the bank was over-borrowed, illiquid and insolvent and liquidation was the fastest way to paying out to depositors.

Sevaljevic was not available for comment.

Regulators said the liquidation of Bobar, which accounts for 4 percent of banking assets in Bosnia's autonomous Serb Republic where it operated, will not affect the stability of the banking sector in the region.

However, it may affect the region's public spending budget because some of its largest clients include state-owned companies such as the power utilities RITE Ugljevik and ERS and the state lottery, as well as the local authorities in the towns of Brcko and Trebinje.

Bosnia's Deposit Insurance Agency said all deposits of up to 50,000 marka would be paid back over the coming months. However, most corporate clients have deposits exceeding that figure. The deposits of private clients amount to 80 million marka.

Problems in the bank, based in the northeastern town of Bijeljina, were reported after its majority owner Gavrilo Bobar, a former Bosnian Serb businessman and member of parliament, died in September.

Analysts say the bank paid the price for extending loans to companies from its owner's business group, also named Bobar, which were late with payments. Some of the debtors are also the bank's shareholders and some now face closure.

"The causes for the liquidation of the Bobar bank lie in its connection with 20 companies of the Bobar Group and its link with the ruling elites in the Serb Republic," economic analyst Damir Miljevic told Reuters.

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