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05.09.07

CEE Banking Markets Break Through Trillion Euro Ceiling

Balance-sheet total of all banks in Central and Eastern Europerecorded 28 per cent growth in 2006 and amounts to more than 1 trillioneuros

Serbia achieved the most vigorous growth (51 per cent)

Majorlong-term growth potential persists; analysts expect market volume todouble by year-end 2011




Highest growth rates in CIS andSoutheastern Europe

In 2006 the banking markets in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE)continued their impressive growth. After a record growth rate of 31.2per cent for 2005, the aggregated balance-sheet total of the CEE bankingmarkets went up by 28.0 per cent in 2006 and amounted to 1,087 billioneuros (2005: 849 billion euros). Raiffeisen Research analysts show thisin the forthcoming issue of their annual study on CEE banks (CEE BankingSector Report), which will be available in its printed form in earlyOctober.

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 Osterreich 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 Ukrainefor the purpose of the study), representing 41.7 per cent growth, and of Southeastern Europe, showing an increase of 36.7 per cent, 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 per cent. When looking at the individual countries, Serbia (plus 51 per cent), Romania (plus 47 per cent), Ukraine and Russia, which are the largest banking markets in the region (each plus 42 per cent), as well as Bulgaria and Belarus (each plus 28 per cent) achievedabove-average growth dynamics in 2006 on a euro basis. Slovakia recorded the lowest increase, which still amounted to a notable 10 per cent.

Doubling of the Banking Market Forecast by 2011

The model, introduced last year to forecast the long-term development ofthe CEE banking markets, has been expanded and now covers the period upto and including 2016. A central result of the forecast model is thatthe CEE banking markets are expected to more than double by year-end2011, i.e. from an aggregated balance-sheet total of 1,087 billion eurosin 2006 to about 2,500 billion euros by the end of 2011. The marketvolume is forecast to amount to more than 5,000 billion euros in theyear 2016, which corresponds to an average annual growth rate of about17 per cent. The forecast model uses the relationship between thevalue-added to national economies and the share of the aggregatedbalance-sheet totals in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Highest Growth Rates Forecast for CIS

The calculations for the forecast also show that the banking markets inthe CIS will clearly develop much faster than those of the new EU memberstates. An average growth of 21 per cent per year is forecast for CISfor the period up to 2011. The respective figures are 16.6 per cent peryear for Southeastern Europe and 15.6 per cent per year for CentralEurope. As a result, analysts therefore expect that in 2008, for thefirst time, the aggregated balance-sheet total of the CIS will be higherthan that of Central Europe.

As growth rates will remain on a high level in CEE, this regioncontinues to be attractive for banks. Economic growth will continue torecord high rates (the forecast for CEE is 6.6 per cent for 2007,compared to 2.7 per cent for the euro zone); the growth potential of thebanking industry, though, will continue to be a multiple of this figure.In recent years, the banks developed, on average, about three times moredynamically than the overall economic performance. This trend isexpected to continue.

Retail Customer Business - the Number One Growth Driver

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

The boom in retail lending is continuing. After the extraordinarily highgrowth rates for the year 2005, when the market for loans to privatehouseholds in the Ukraine went up by 175 per cent, and by 111 per centin Russia, growth has slightly slowed down, in relative terms. In 2006the volume of loans to private households in the Ukraine increased by110 per cent over the year before, in Romania by 100 per cent and inRussia by 73 per cent (always euro-based). In absolute figures, though,growth continues unabated at a high level. The volume of loans toprivate households in the Ukraine, for example, rose from 5.6 billioneuros at year-end 2005 to 11.8 billion euros. The volume thereforeexpanded by about 6.2 billion euros in 2006. The year before, growth wasat 3.6 billion euros.

These growth rates show that there is still much pent-up demand,especially in the CIS countries. On the Slovak banking market, which ismore highly developed by comparison, the volume of retail lending alsowent up by 46 per cent.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 futurecan be gleaned from a comparison of the loan volume to the overalleconomic performance. In the euro zone, retail lending accounted, onaverage, for a total of 54.1 per cent of the gross domestic product(GDP) at year-end 2006. In Central Europe and Southeastern Europe,however, the values were 17.5 and 17.7 per cent of GDP, and only 8.3 percent 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 gross domestic product of the CIS went up from 5.7 per cent in 2005 to 8.3 per cent in 2006, says Demel.

Western-European Banking Groups Dominate in CEE

Russias Sberbank has a balance-sheet total of 100.5 billion euros 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 euros. Austrian banks hold the second and third place: Erste Bank (59.3 billion euros) and Raiffeisen International (55.9 billion). With a balance-sheet total of 42.6 billion euros, KBC from Belgium ranks fourth, and Societe G?ne?rale (40.0 billion) is fifth. Altogether, Austrias banking groups succeeded once again in 2006 to keep their top positions, states Stefan Maxian, co-author and head of Company Research at Raiffeisen Centrobank AG.

Banks Boost Economic Growth

"The international banks in CEE are growing significantly faster thanthe overall market, which is due, amongst others, to their intensivemerger 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 per cent between 2001and 2006, Raiffeisen International showed the biggest growth dynamics in the past five years. On account of a number of acquisitions, UniCredit obtained 31.7 per cent, and OTP in Hungary, which also engages in major take-over activities, reached 27.6 per cent.

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 2,848business outlets (figure for year-end 2006), Raiffeisen Internationalhas the largest and most extensive distribution network of allinternational banks operating in the region, especially on account ofits strong presence in the Ukraine. UniCredit ranks next (2,403 branchoffices), followed by Erste Bank with 1,765 business outlets.

Raiffeisen International and UniCredit have the greatest regionalcoverage 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, OVAG and Societe Generale.

Raiffeisen Zentralbank Osterreich AG (RZB) is the central institution ofthe Austrian Raiffeisen Banking Group, the country''s largest bankinggroup. It is a leading corporate and investment bank in Austria and alsoconsiders Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) as its home market. RZB isthe only Austrian bank with a global network of business units reachingall important finance centres around the globe. It is also present inAsia via its branches and representative offices.

Via listed subsidiary Raiffeisen International Bank-Holding AG, RZBoperates one of the largest banking networks in CEE. 16 markets arecovered by subsidiary banks and finance leasing companies. In addition,two representative offices in Lithuania and Moldova complement thenetwork. Approximately 12.7 million customers are attended to throughmore than 2,950 business outlets (as of end of June 2007).

Definitions:

Central Europe: Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia and Hungary

Southeastern Europe: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Kosovo,Croatia, Romania and Serbia

CIS: Belarus, Russia and Ukraine

The CEE Banking Sector Report 2007 will be available as of October 2007.

For further information please contact Andreas Ecker-Nakamura (+42-1-71707-1753, andreas.ecker@rzb.at) and Michael Palzer (+43-1-717 07-1504,michael.palzer@ri.co.at).

http://www.rzb.at,http://www.ri.co.at,http://www.rcb.at



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