The decision to publish the preliminary results was made due to the current uncertain market conditions. The information contained in this release is based on unaudited figures. The complete annual report, which will include full details regarding the business year 2008, will be presented on 26 March.
Despite a fourth quarter 2008 that was very difficult for the entire banking industry, Raiffeisen International Bank-Holding AG succeeded in meeting the forecast it had presented in 2008 and achieved another record result for the full year. Consolidated profit (after tax and minorities) rose by 17 per cent to 982 million euros. A key factor for this result was net interest income, which grew by nearly 34 per cent to 3.2 billion euros. Provisioning for impairment losses were expanded to 780 million euros, more than double the amount of 2007 (357 million euros). This significant increase both reflects Raiffeisen International's conservative approach to managing risk, and offers the bank leeway for absorbing future risks. At about 1.5 billion euros, net commission income was up more than 20 per cent on last year’s figure. Trading profit advanced by 31 per cent to 168 million euros, while general administrative expenses grew by only about 21 per cent to 2.6 billion euros (2007: 2.2 billion euros).
«These preliminary figures provide clear evidence that our business model works even in an extraordinary difficult market environment,» said Raiffeisen International CEO Herbert Stepic. In order to solidify the basis of this model, the company has implemented a number of measures including a further improvement of its already high standards for risk management and collateralisation, a stop to extending loans in Swiss Francs, a general reduction in loans in foreign currencies, a group-wide halt to its branch expansion programme, as well as staff reductions in Ukraine and Hungary.
Raiffeisen International placed a particular focus on developing customer deposits in 2008, and succeeded by increasing that position to 44.2 billion euros at year-end, up 9 per cent year-on-year. «We managed to substantially strengthen our deposit base and liquidity situation on a whole, even though we had to record a partially significant drain of customer deposits due to the financial crisis, especially following the events in September. This reflects our excellent market position in the region and the high degree of trust our customers extend to the Raiffeisen brand,» Stepic added.
Loans and advances to customers rose by 18 per cent to 57.9 billion euros in 2008. Raiffeisen International’s balance sheet total was 85.4 billion euros at year-end and thus 17 per cent higher than the 72.7 billion euros it recorded a year earlier.
RZB’s macro-economic analysts forecast a GDP decline of 1.3 per cent for Central and Eastern Europe in 2009. This is the same figure they forecast for Austria. Deteriorating general conditions notwithstanding, Stepic continues to consider the region as Europe’s growth motor and stresses that it is important to keep this engine running. The continually exaggerated portrayal of risk and the partially unreflected public perception of CEE are potential obstacles in reaching that objective, according to Stepic. This has impacted the stock prices of many companies active in the region, which have become detached from the companies’ fundamental business development. The issue at hand is now to also avoid long-term negative consequences for the real economy. «We must not return to a Europe of two different speeds. The European Union and many other institutions have invested too much in the project of one common and stable Europe. Raiffeisen International has already demonstrated its long-term commitment to the region in the course of the Russian crisis in 1998 and contributes significantly as systemic bank to the economic stabilisation of the region,» Stepic said.
Raiffeisen International operates one of the largest banking networks in CEE. 17 markets in Europe’s growth region are covered by subsidiary banks, leasing companies and a range of other financial service providers. 14.6 million customers are serviced in more than 3,100 business outlets. Raiffeisen International is a fully consolidated subsidiary of Raiffeisen Zentralbank Osterreich AG (RZB), which owns more than two-thirds of the common stock. The remainder is in free float, the shares are listed on the Vienna Stock Exchange. RZB is a leading corporate and investment bank in Austria and the central institution of the Austrian Raiffeisen Banking Group, the country’s largest banking group.
For further information please contact Michael Palzer (+43-1-71 707-2828, email@example.com).