Alpha’s Balkan outlook

Greece’s Alpha Bank is facing excellent prospects in neighboring Balkan countries, analysts said in a report yesterday. «We remain firm on our opinion that the region will become a significant source of revenue for Alpha Bank in the next two years,» Citigroup Global Markets analysts said in the report, following meetings with the heads of the Greek bank’s subsidiaries in Bucharest and Belgrade and other local banking industry officials. «The strategy applied at every location fits perfectly the context and serves Alpha’s profits, as these markets continue to develop,» said the report, adding that the still-low bank penetration and the projected strong growth in the region are the two favorable elements that will offer attractive returns. Alpha aims to draw 20 percent of the group’s total earnings from its activities in Southeastern Europe. In Romania, where gross domestic product is expected to grow by 5 percent in 2006, Alpha is developing its own network while its competitors are fighting for the privatization of BCR and CEC. Its aim is to increase its branches from 30 this year to 150 by the end of 2008, an investment which will cost 400,000 euros per branch. It also intends to raise its market share from 3.2 percent to 6 or 7 percent in the same period. In Serbia, Alpha has bought out Jubanka through privatization. «Jubanka is well positioned to make the most of the growing Serbian banking market,» Citigroup reports. Alpha plans to increase the number of branches from 89 to 110. Finally, Citigroup concludes that Alpha is one of its top choices in Greece, with the most optimized diversification of risk exposure and without overt dependence on any section of its clientele. Its recommendation is «buy-medium risk» with a price at 28 euros.