HEARTS owner Vladimir Romanov’s troubled bank Ukio Bankas looks likely to be saved, with a number of bidders circling to acquire its “good” assets.
Four Baltic banks are vying to take over crippled Ukio Bankas, the News can reveal – with rival firm Siauliu Bankas seemingly in pole position to take over “selected core banking assets”.
The lifeline comes after Ukio Bankas, which is 64.9 per cent owned by the tycoon, was put into temporary administration on Tuesday following a collapse which saw its value drop to an eight-year low.
The Bank of Lithuania confirmed Siauliu Bankas was in negotiations with the temporary administrator, adding three other bidders were also keen to begin talks. In a statement, the central bank said: “The Bank of Lithuania wants to determine the prospects for Ukio Bankas’s operations with great rapidity.”
Labour peer and former Hearts chairman Lord George Foulkes said more information was needed about the potential implications of any takeover for Hearts. “It’s difficult to work out exactly what effect each of these options would have on Hearts, it depends on what the new owner’s attitude would be – would they want to continue their interest in the club? Sell it?
“They could decide to continue as they were before but it will still be a different bank with a different owner now Romanov will be out of the picture.”
Derek Watson, of the Hearts Supporters Trust, said: “Everyone is confused by the situation, there’s no clarity and nothing coming out to make it easier for people to form an opinion. Unless you are an international banking expert it’s difficult to fathom what’s happening – it’s so complex, deep and involving that I don’t think anyone has a clue.”
We told yesterday how Hearts chiefs had rubbished claims made by the Bank of Lithuania that Romanov was insolvent. Hearts director Sergejus Fedotovas said the allegations levelled against his boss were “total rubbish” and that Romanov’s personal wealth was not linked to Hearts’ survival.
Mr Fedotovas has admitted Ukio Bankas provides the club with “some banking services” and a “debt facility” – but the total amount owed is not yet known.
The uncertain future of Ukio Bankas is likely to fuel speculation over the financial health of the Hearts owner. The Tynecastle club is currently more than £20 million in debt to UBIG, Romanov’s main investment company. A conclusion to the crisis at Ukio Bankas is expected to be announced on Monday.