ECONOMY

Car leasing’s popularity growing in the Balkans

Leasing in the Balkans has become a product with large and growing demand. Yet it is mainly used toward buying cars and to a lesser extent for purchase of mechanical equipment, while its users treat it more like a commercial product than a banking one. Among the differences between leasing in Greece and in these markets is elsewhere it also concerns private consumers, while in Greece, it is only for enterprises or freelancers. In Greece, leasing is a tax tool, thanks to the exemptions it offers, unlike in the other Balkan countries. In the latter, leasing is already monitored according to International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), which has yet to happen in Greece. Haris Vlachos, head of the international leasing sector at EFG Leasing, told Kathimerini that money leasing in the Balkans is very popular, but only for cars. Leasing in the Balkans has now surpassed loans for car purchase, as approval is quick and the terms are not as strict as that of a loan. In Bulgaria this year, the total value of capital assets is expected to rise to 250 million euros, 70 percent of which concerns passenger cars. In Romania, this reaches 85 percent, at a total of 1.5 billion euros of capital assets. For next year, the total value of assets is estimated to be 300 million euros in Bulgaria and 2 billion euros in Romania. Around 2 billion euros was the total value of new leasing contracts for the Greek market, too, during the previous financial year. Nevertheless, Vlachos added, Romanian law provides tax incentives for leasing against buying a car or equipment with one’s own capital. It offers a discount in purchase price depending on the country of the product’s origin: If a car or equipment is from an EU country, the discount is 9 percent, otherwise it can be as much as 39 percent. The expansion of leasing into the Balkans has created hundreds of companies, not necessarily bank subsidiaries, while in Greece only 11 companies operate, all of which are credit group subsidiaries. To set up a leasing company, little share capital is required, that is, 13,000 euros in Bulgaria and 25,000 euros in Romania. In Bulgaria, 250 companies operate with another 500 in Romania, but just 10 or so in each country are big, and all are subsidiaries of large car-importing firms. The biggest name in the sector in Romania with a dominant position in the local market is Porsche Leasing. Greek bank subsidiaries also operate in Romania, but their market share is small. They belong to Alpha Bank, Piraeus and Egnatia, while the new unit by EFG Eurobank will start operations in the new year. In Bulgaria, the leading company in market share is Interlease, a subsidiary of the National Bank of Greece.