Novabank to see profit around 2005

Novabank, the joint banking venture owned by Portugal’s Banco Comercial Portugues and Greek insurance magnate Dimitris Kontominas, has pushed back its profit target as expansion costs mount. George Taniskidis, chief executive, told Kathimerini English Edition the bank had originally projected a profit in 2004 but has had to move the target a year back due to high depreciation costs related to branch openings. «Our depreciation costs last year alone came to 24 million euros,» he said. Since its launch in September 2000, Novabank has moved aggressively into the retail banking market, opening more than 90 branches countrywide. It hopes to increase the network to 120 and is aiming for 40 million euros in net interest income this year. Taniskidis said the bank «had positive EBITDA in the first two months of the year» but that it was too early to predict a trend. «We don’t expect a profit before 2005,» he said. Novabank is to expand into the corporate lending market next month, as it sheds its boutique bank image and becomes a full-fledged financial institution. The bank yesterday launched its private banking division, the second of three new activities planned this year. The first, bancassurance, took off in January with four products. Business banking will be added to the stable of activities next month. Private banking services will be available via an office in Kifissia, another in central Athens and a third in Thessaloniki. Manos Poulakis, deputy general manager, said the private banking division will target affluent and high net worth individuals, with the minimum amount of investments set at 200,000 euros, substantially lower than the competition. «We hope to sign on 750 clients by the end of the year, split evenly between the three offices. Our target is 300 million euros in funds under management,» he told Kathimerini English Edition. With an estimated 80,000 wealthy households in Greece, Novabank aims to capture 20-30 percent of the market over a 10-year period. The operation expects to break even in three years.