ECONOMY

Success-driven growth

EFG Eurobank Ergasias will not seek growth as an end in itself, but this will rather be expected as a result of success, managing director Nikos Nanopoulos said yesterday. «The issue is whether in a specific market or sector of interest one possesses the critical size and those abilities that make him competitive,» he said during a bank presentation to institutional investors. The event came in the midst of growing speculation regarding the next moves for mergers or acquisitions in the Greek banking sector after the recent collapse of a proposed union between National and Alpha banks, the country’s two biggest. Nanopoulos said EFG Eurobank’s strategy ensured that the bank would retain the leading role it wished for in all important sectors while also creating the prerequisites for growth of turnover and operating profits in the medium term. «It is, therefore, neither necessary nor desirable for this strategy to be seriously affected by developments at any one time,» he said. Nanopoulos said EFG Eurobank’s strong competitiveness was indicated by its high growth rates and the fact that it now held first or second place in the most crucial sectors of banking business. Its share in consumer credit was 24 percent, in mutual funds 20 percent, in credit cards 28 percent, in management of initial public offerings for bourse listing 19 percent and in stockbrokerage business 10 percent. The growth rate of business in loans, deposits and repos in 2001 was 25 percent, the highest among all big Greek banks. Given this record, EFG Eurobank was not concerned over any structural changes in the industry. «The observance of the rules of equal opportunities and healthy competition is sufficient,» Nanopoulos said. EFG Eurobank’s total market capitalization in Greece now stands second after National Bank’s, at 4,350.78 million euros. Nanopoulos noted that competition in the banking sector was growing particularly intense, although the degree of concentration was one of the highest in Europe and likely to rise further. On the other hand, new players continued entering the market, ignoring the significance of a minimum critical size in such competitive conditions. EFG considers that prospects in the Greek market are favorable for those banks with the right infrastructure and abilities to tap them. The favorable factors include high economic growth rates, a boom in investment and a still low percentage of consumer and housing credit as part of GDP – less than half of Spain or Portugal. The capital market and stockbrokerage businesses, asset management and insurance services, which produce a significant volume of commission income, also had large margins for growth. The share of EFG Eurobank lost 10 percent less than the Banks sectoral index in 2001, showing the strongest resistance of all bank stocks.