Heavy trading in shares of Poland's Bank Handlowy W Warszawie SA in Warsaw on Friday appeared to be coming mainly from institutional investors reconfiguring their holdings in advance of a sale of the bank to Citigroup Inc., traders said Friday.

The Warsaw Stock Exchange reported Friday that 13.7% of Handlowy sold for nearly $148 million in a series of off-session block transactions

Prices ranged from $14.48 a share to $17.50, but Handlowy's share price held at $14.95.

Citigroup confirmed last month that it plans to pay nearly $1 billion for a 75% stake in Handlowy. Core shareholders in Handlowy, including J.P. Morgan & Co., with about 12%, and Sweden's Foereningssparbanken AB and Zurich Financial Services Group, with 6% each, have already agreed to sell their stake to Citigroup for $17.15 a share, unless Handlowy management can attract a better offer.

Citibank Poland spokeswoman Dorota Kaminska declined to comment on Friday's transactions, and Handlowy officials were not available for comment, news agencies reported.

Citigroup entered the bidding for Handlowy after the Polish treasury and the state-controlled insurance company, PZU SA, blocked a plan by BRE Bank SA to acquire control of Handlowy. PZU and the Polish treasury hold a combined 24% stake in Handlowy.

The two shareholders, as well as people in Polish political circles, feared that a BRE acquisition of Handlowy would put too much of Poland's banking system under the control of Germany's Commerzbank AG, which owns a 10% stake in Handlowy and a large minority stake in BRE.

Commerzbank agreed last month to sell its 10% stake in Handlowy to Citigroup. According to unconfirmed reports, Citigroup is also talking to Commerzbank about buying out its shares in BRE and merging BRE with Handlowy.

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