(Bloomberg) -- UniCredit SpA has submitted a bid for Luminor and is now competing with Hungary’s largest lender, OTP Bank Nyrt, to acquire the Baltic bank, according to people with knowledge of the matter. 

Tallinn, Estonia-based Luminor is owned by Blackstone Inc., which started a sales process for the lender earlier this year. Blackstone has been seeking about 1.2 times book value in an exit, Bloomberg News has reported. Luminor had about €1.8 billion ($1.9 billion) of equity on its balance sheet at the end of December, according to filings. 

The newest bid pits UniCredit against OTP which had submitted a non-binding offer already, Bloomberg News reported last month. OTP Chief Executive Officer Sandor Csanyi had earlier told Inforadio that the lender’s next planned acquisition would give it access to the banking markets of three countries with highly developed digitalization and banking systems. 

UniCredit, Blackstone and OTP declined to comment. 

For UniCredit, the bid is adding to a long list of potential takeover targets. UniCredit CEO Andrea Orcel has focused on reshaping the bank and redeploying capital to shareholders during his tenure. Now, with the bank’s valuation higher, Orcel has more options to deploy capital via acquisitions. He’s been saying that he’s looking at many potential targets, including in Central and Eastern Europe, as he seeks to cement UniCredit’s role as one of the largest players in the region.

Buying Luminor would add one of the largest banks in the region to what is already a big footprint for UniCredit in Eastern Europe.

A consortium led by Blackstone-managed funds bought a 60% stake in the bank for €1 billion in 2019 from Nordic lenders Nordea Bank Abp and DNB Bank ASA and has since acquired Nordea’s remaining stake. DNB Bank still owns a minority interest. Luminor operates in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

--With assistance from Veronika Gulyas.

(Updates with details of 2019 purchase in last paragraph.)

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