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Exclusive-Saxo Bank explores strategic options including sale, sources say

By Amy-Jo Crowley and Andres Gonzalez

LONDON (Reuters) - Denmark's Saxo Bank is exploring a possible sale, 18 months after talks to merge with a blank-cheque company fell apart, four people familiar with the matter told Reuters.

The group, which offers digital trading and investment services, invited investment bankers in recent weeks to pitch for an advisory role to help it consider options, three of the people said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

A deal could value privately held Saxo Bank at around 1.5 billion to 2 billion euros ($1.6 billion to $2.1 billion), two of the people said. A sales process could start later this year, one of the people added.

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The structure of the deal has not been decided and could result in the sale of either a minority or majority stake, the second person said.

All four sources spoke on condition of anonymity because the process is private.

Chinese carmaker Geely owns close to 50% of the group, with the bank's CEO Kim Fournais holding 28% and Finnish insurer Sampo almost 20%, according to Saxo Bank's website.

Geely and Saxo Bank declined to comment. Sampo said it was in the process of offloading its stake to its asset management spin-off Mandatum. Mandatum declined to comment.

Saxo Bank is expected to attract attention from private equity groups, two of the people said. European banks and asset managers could also show interest in a full sale, the second person added.

Saxo Bank entered discussions in September 2022 to merge with a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) and become publicly traded, but the negotiations were called off amid "challenging market conditions".

CEO Fournais told Reuters in early 2023 that the company could explore another transaction to give its institutional backers a new chance to cash in, without specifying a timeline.

He said he would prefer an initial public offer but left the door open to a potential private stake sale.

Sampo said at the time it did not deem its investment in Saxo Bank to be strategic.

While Saxo Bank's clients reached a record of more than 1.1 million last year, the group posted a decline in net profit to 653 million Danish krone ($93.01 million), adjusted for software writedowns related to the migration of its BinckBank acquisition and the disposal of its Saxo Fintech joint venture.

($1 = 0.9424 euros)

($1 = 7.0205 Danish crowns)

(Reporting by Amy-Jo Crowley and Andres Gonzalez; Additional reporting by Pablo Mayo Cerqueiro; Editing by Anousha Sakoui and Sharon Singleton)