The acquiring group does not hold a leading position in any of the relevant markets in the country and the market shares of each of its units do not exceed 22%, the CPC said in a decision published on its website earlier this week.
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Other market participants have larger or similar market positions and are able to exert effective competitive pressure on the merged banking group, the antitrust body added.
According to the CPC, the planned deal does not have the potential to impact competitiveness and incentives to compete for both the merging companies and their competitors in ways that are unfavourable to consumers. The new merged group will have neither the ability nor incentive to limit effective competition in vertically affected markets, the regulator also said.
Interested parties can challenge the regulator's decision before Sofia Region Administrative Court until March 16.
In November, the KBC group said that KBC Bank agreed to acquire Raiffeisenbank Bulgaria, comprising the Bulgarian banking operations of Austria-based Raiffeisen Bank International, for 1.015 billion euro ($1.11 billion) in cash.
Completion of the transaction is expected by the middle of 2022, KBC said at the time.
KBC also said back then that it intends, after regulatory approval, to proceed with the merger of Raiffeisenbank Bulgaria and United Bulgarian Bank (UBB), which will allow KBC to strengthen its position in the Bulgarian banking market.
Raiffeisenbank Bulgaria was Bulgaria's sixth-largest lender by assets among 25 licensed banks and branches of foreign banks at the end of January, according to the latest central bank data.
KBC Group has been present in the Bulgarian financial sector since 2007. The group is present in Bulgaria through UBB, insurance brand DZI, UBB Interlease, UBB Pension Insurance, UBB Asset Management, UBB Factoring, UBB Insurance Broker and KBC Branch Bulgaria. Earlier this year, KBC acquired the Bulgarian life insurance and pension fund activities of Dutch-based NN Group.
($ = 0.9166 euro)
Raiffeisenbank (Bulgaria) EAD is among the biggest banks in SEE, for more reference take a look at Top 100 banks.