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Poland should buy up foreign banks says deputy PM

Jaroslaw Gowin voices concern that overseas investors have ‘too much power’. Poland should buy up banks owned by foreign investors, the country’s deputy prime minister has said, as part of a push by the country’s rightwing government to reduce the influence of overseas capital in the economy.

Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party, which came to power in October on a broadly nationalist and Eurosceptic agenda, has moved swiftly to increase state control over previously independent or apolitical institutions. It has also recently begun a push to increase the state’s role in business sectors, startling investors who fear Poland is turning away from free-market principles.

Foreign capital “definitely has too much power” in the Polish banking industry, Jaroslaw Gowin said, arguing the state should act to increase the level of Polish ownership as part of a programme of “economic patriotism”.

“We should use the opportunity that some of the foreign banks are in trouble, and move to renationalise them,” Mr Gowin told the Financial Times.

Poland’s large and dynamic banking industry, one of very few in Europe to avoid crisis and bailouts after the 2008 financial crisis, is roughly 60 per cent owned by foreign investors. Some, including the local units of Austria’s Raiffeisen and Italy’s UniCredit, are considering an exit.

“In that transition phase, the Polish state may buy up these banks … but only to privatise them later,” Mr Gowin said. “[But] if I had a choice to sell a bank to a foreign investor or a Polish investor, and if the conditions are comparable, even if the Polish investor is my steadfast opponent, of course I would prefer to sell it to the Pole.”

Other major foreign lenders in Poland, such as Citi, Santander and Portugal’s Banco Millennium, have not declared an interest to sell their assets.

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