New BCP executive plans to expand in Poland, Greece

LISBON – The Millennium BCP new top executive has a difficult task ahead building business in Poland and Greece as he steps into the shoes of a legend at Portugal’s largest listed bank, analysts said yesterday. Paulo Teixeira Pinto, proposed on Tuesday as the replacement for Jorge Jardim Goncalves, takes over a bank in good shape but betting on growth in Poland and Greece while the domestic economy sputters as it struggles to recover from a recession. «In Portugal, there will be a challenging business environment for up to three years,» said Tiago Dionisio, an analyst at Banco Portugues de Investimento. «In Poland and Greece, things are improving but it’s still a challenge,» he said. BCP owns 50 percent of Poland’s Bank Millennium, and on Tuesday said it would buy the remaining half of Greece’s NovaBank it does not own for 330 million euros. BCP’s 2006 forecast calls for a 12 percent return on equity in Poland and 14 percent in Greece. «The achievement of those targets will be a challenge,» Dionisio said. But investment house WestLB said it does not expect BCP’s foreign operations to earn their cost of capital in coming years. «Despite recent improvements in Polish Millennium, Mr Teixeira Pinto’s confirmation of the core presences in Poland and Greece is a disappointment,» WestLB said in a research note. Foreign operations, which also include Asia, Africa and North America, account for only 6 percent to 7 percent of BCP’s net profit. The company has said it wants to increase that to 9 percent within a few years. «In Poland, over the next five years we will probably see consolidations. BCP has 4 percent market share and they must decide if they want to acquire another bank, or merge or sell,» which is unlikely, said Pablo Beldarrain of Morgan Stanley in London. The same scenario holds for Greece, he said. The business environment is different from the one Jardim Goncalves faced when he embarked on the international expansion originally, Beldarrain said. Jardim Goncalves faced an economic slowdown and a market in which there was little consolidation, he said. «Now, Teixeira Pinto has to make the most of an economic recovery,» Beldarrain said, adding that it is unlikely BCP will enter new markets because it lacks capital. Goncalves built the company from the ground up from its launch in 1985 and became a rare symbol of Portuguese business acumen at home and abroad. BCP is second in size only to state bank Caixa Geral de Depositos. On Tuesday, the company posted 2004 net profits of 513 million euros ($669.4 million), up 17 percent from the previous year.