Swedbank AB, the largest bank in Sweden, will use its Baltic subsidiary AS Hansapank to expand in Russia, offering new services for medium-sized businesses and wealthy individuals to tap economic growth in eastern Europe.
Swedbank, already serving corporate clients through branches in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Kaliningrad, said on January 26 it will offer retail banking in those cities. „The focus will be medium-sized businesses and the more affluent private individuals,” Hansapank CEO Erkki Raasuke said in an interview in Tallinn yesterday. „We will be there in three years. We aim to have a universal model there, as in the Baltics and Sweden. Hansapank's knowledge of Russia will help expand the business to the same level as elsewhere, he said. Swedbank bought full control Hansapank, the biggest Baltic lender, in February 2005 to benefit from the region's rising salaries and the European Union's highest rates of economic growth.
Russia's economy grew 6.5% in the Q3 compared with 4.4% in Sweden. Hansapank bought Russia's OAO Kvest Bank for $3.4 million in March 2005. Raasuke didn't rule out further acquisitions, though no talks are under way, he said. Currently the bank is looking to „organic growth.” „There are many areas of growth and good volumes for all the stronger players” in Russia, Raasuke said. He added that setting targets for a share of the „huge” Russian market is less important than building a strong presence in the region. Hansapank's loan portfolio grew an annual 61% in the Q3, spurred by rising Baltic wages. Raasuke said loan growth as a percentage will slow this year. „In absolute terms we expect about the same size” of loan growth in each country as last year, Raasuke said. (Bloomberg)