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CEE banking markets break through trillion Euro ceiling - study

Balance-sheet total of all banks in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) recorded 28% growth in 2006 and amounts to more than €1 trillion Serbia achieved the most vigorous growth (51%)

Highest growth rates in CIS and Southeastern Europe

In 2006 the banking markets in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) continued their impressive growth. After a record growth rate of 31.2% for 2005, the aggregated balance-sheet total of the CEE banking markets went up by 28.0% in 2006 and amounted to €1,087 billion ($1,483 billion)(2005: €849 billion). Raiffeisen Research analysts show this in the forthcoming issue of their annual study on CEE banks (CEE Banking Sector Report), which will be available in its printed form in early October. “After the record obtained in 2005, this is the second-biggest annual growth for this region. At present, we see no indications for a significant slackening of the long-term growth trend,” says Walter Demel, senior analyst at Raiffeisen Zentralbank Österreich AG and co-author of the study.

The CEE Banking Sector Report offers in-depth coverage of the 15 most important banking markets in the region. From a regional perspective, the banking markets of the Community of Independent States (CIS, which include Belarus, Russia and the Ukraine for the purpose of the study), representing 41.7% growth, and of Southeastern Europe, showing an increase of 36.7%, were the main growth drivers.

The banking markets of Central Europe, which are further advanced in terms of banking market development, grew by 15.8%. When looking at the individual countries, Serbia (plus 51%), Romania (plus 47%), Ukraine and Russia, which are the largest banking markets in the region (each plus 42%), as well as Bulgaria and Belarus (each plus 28%) achieved above-average growth dynamics in 2006 on a euro basis. Slovakia recorded the lowest increase, which still amounted to a notable 10%.

Doubling of the Banking Market Forecast by 2011

The model, introduced last year to forecast the long-term development of the CEE banking markets, has been expanded and now covers the period up to and including 2016. A central result of the forecast model is that the CEE banking markets are expected to more than double by year-end 2011, i.e. from an aggregated balance-sheet total of €1,087 billion in 2006 to about €2,500 billion by the end of 2011. The market volume is forecast to amount to more than €5,000 billion in the year 2016, which corresponds to an average annual growth rate of about 17%. The forecast model uses the relationship between the value-added to national economies and the share of the aggregated balance-sheet totals in the GDP.

Highest Growth Rates Forecast for CIS

The calculations for the forecast also show that the banking markets in the CIS will clearly develop much faster than those of the new EU member states. An average growth of 21% per year is forecast for CIS for the period up to 2011. The respective figures are 16.6% per year for Southeastern Europe and 15.6% per year for Central Europe. As a result, analysts therefore expect that in 2008, for the first time, the aggregated balance-sheet total of the CIS will be higher than that of Central Europe. As growth rates will remain on a high level in CEE, this region continues to be attractive for banks. Economic growth will continue to record high rates (the forecast for CEE is 6.6% for 2007, compared to 2.7% for the euro zone); the growth potential of the banking industry, though, will continue to be a multiple of this figure. In recent years, the banks developed, on average, about three times more dynamically than the overall economic performance. This trend is expected to continue.

Retail Customer Business - the Number One Growth Driver

The retail customer segment, which continues to expand vigorously, is the biggest engine behind growth. As the incomes of large parts of the population in the countries of the region continue to rise, customers show a fast-growing demand for bank products, both on the lending and the deposit side. As a result, almost all international banks operating in the region are now focusing on this promising customer segment.

The boom in retail lending is continuing. After the extraordinarily high growth rates for the year 2005, when the market for loans to private households in the Ukraine went up by 175%, and by 111% in Russia, growth has slightly slowed down, in relative terms. In 2006 the volume of loans to private households in the Ukraine increased by 110% over the year before, in Romania by 100% and in Russia by 73% (always euro-based). In absolute figures, though, growth continues unabated at a high level.

The volume of loans to private households in the Ukraine, for example, rose from €5.6 billion at year-end 2005 to €11.8 billion ($16.1 billion). The volume therefore expanded by about €6.2 billion in 2006. The year before, growth was at €3.6 billion. These growth rates show that there is still much pent-up demand, especially in the CIS countries. On the Slovak banking market, which is more highly developed by comparison, the volume of retail lending also went up by 46%. “We see that the greatest demand is to finance housing property, cars and consumer goods. On the one hand, there is an incredible pent-up demand and, on the other hand, demand is further boosted by the increases in income,” Demel emphasizes.

The magnitude of the long-term potential of this industry for the future can be gleaned from a comparison of the loan volume to the overall economic performance. In the euro zone, retail lending accounted, on average, for a total of 54.1% of the GDP at year-end 2006. In Central Europe and Southeastern Europe, however, the values were 17.5 and 17.7% of GDP, and only 8.3% in the CIS countries. “The regions are in different stages of their development. As a result, there are major differences in growth rates. The share of retail lending in the GDP of the CIS went up from 5.7% in 2005 to 8.3% in 2006,” says Demel.

Western-European Banking Groups Dominate in CEE

Russia’s Sberbank has a balance-sheet total of €100.5 billion and is the biggest bank in CEE. UniCredit, Italy, is the largest international banking group with an extensive presence in CEE. Its consolidated balance-sheet total amounts to €91.0 billion. Austrian banks hold the second and third place: Erste Bank (€59.3 billion) and Raiffeisen International (€55.9 billion). With a balance-sheet total of €42.6 billion, KBC from Belgium ranks fourth, and Société Générale (€40.0 billion) is fifth.

Banks Boost Economic Growth

“The international banks in CEE are growing significantly faster than the overall market, which is due, amongst others, to their intensive merger and acquisition activities,” says Maxian. As a result, the banks are also a major driving force behind the overall economic growth of the region. With an average annual balance-sheet growth of 37.1% between 2001 and 2006, Raiffeisen International showed the biggest growth dynamics in the past five years. On account of a number of acquisitions, UniCredit obtained 31.7%, and OTP in Hungary, which also engages in major take-over activities, reached 27.6%.

Raiffeisen International with Biggest Distribution Network
Successful business activities with retail customers depend, of course, to a large extent on a dense network of branch offices. With its 2,848 business outlets (figure for year-end 2006), Raiffeisen International has the largest and most extensive distribution network of all international banks operating in the region, especially on account of its strong presence in the Ukraine. UniCredit ranks next (2,403 branch offices), followed by Erste Bank with 1,765 business outlets.

Raiffeisen International and UniCredit have the greatest regional coverage of all international banks - they have banking subsidiaries on 15 markets of the region. Each of the following six banks operates on eight markets: IntesaSanpaolo, Citigroup, ING, OTP, ÖVAG and Société Générale.

(press release by Raiffeisen Zentralbank Österreich AG)