SBP to vet parties interested in acquiring SME Bank

ISLAMABAD: The Privatisation Commission has decided to rely on the central bank’s expertise to vet almost half a dozen parties including two foreign institutions that have come forward to acquire the government-owned SME Bank.

The Commission has sent the documents of these parties that include a consortium comprising a real estate giant and Punjab-based Education Group to the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) to judge them on the ‘fit and proper’ criteria, said sources in the finance ministry. The central bank will judge the credibility of the sponsors.

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The SME Bank is a hot cake in the market, especially for those who want to venture in the banking sector for the first time, as the SBP is not issuing new licences for commercial banking.

Only those parties that will pass through the central bank’s test will be pre-qualified to buy the government’s 93.88% stake, according to officials. SME Bank is the only specialised financial institution that lends to small and medium-sized enterprises. Although the bank’s financial condition is far from impressive, its licence has become very pricey given the fact that the central bank is not issuing new licences for commercial banks.

In response to the Privatisation Commission’s advertisement, five parties have submitted the Statement of Qualification out of fourteen parties that had obtained documents at the initial

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