ECONOMY

One in seven Albanian depositors put faith, money in Greek banks

More than one in seven depositors in Albania choose a Greek bank for their savings, data by the country’s central bank show. According to the data, 15.05 percent of Albanians opt for one of the four Greek banks or their subsidiaries: Alpha Bank, Tirana Bank (a Piraeus Bank subsidiary), the National Bank of Greece and Emporiki Bank. These four also have a 39.82 percent share in the Albanian loans market and account for 26.44 percent of Albania’s credit sector profits. The greatest share of total deposits in Albania goes to Tirana Bank with 7.34 percent, followed by Alpha Bank with 5.02 percent, National with 2.01 percent and Emporiki with 0.68 percent. In loans, however, Alpha Bank leads with 17.5 percent of the total, followed by Tirana Bank with 12.7 percent, National with 6.46 percent and Emporiki with 3.16 percent. Raising the curtain in Albania for Greek banks was Tirana Bank, set up in September 1996 as the first private credit institution in the country. Its headquarters are in the capital and it has 30 branches in major cities and 26 cash machines (ATMs). Alpha Bank’s network in Albania numbers eight branches, two in Tirana and one each in Gjirokaster, Vlore, Durres, Elbasan, Berati and Fieri. Further expansion is quite likely. Alpha aims to capture within the next three years one fifth of the annual turnover from Balkan countries. By the end of 2006, Emporiki Bank intends to add another five branches to the three already operating in Albania (two in Tirana and one in Vlore). The bank’s Albanian headquarters are housed in owned offices with an area of 1,200 square meters within a newly constructed building in the center of Tirana. Finally, the National Bank of Greece is present at three points in Tirana, as well as in the cities of Durres, Korce and Vlore; it is also planning, say sources, to significantly expand its number of branches across Albania. Data from the year’s first quarter reveal a shift in loans away from the trade sector (consumer goods) that has traditionally dominated the Albanian market. From 34 percent of all loans in 2003 and 25 percent in 2004, the trade sector only accounted for 20.6 percent of loans in January-March 2005, while real estate and construction were on the rise with 14.7 percent and 11.2 percent respectively. The manufacturing sector remains in second place with 16.7 percent. Albania’s dependence on loans has increased in recent years. The Greek Embassy in Tirana says loans as percentage of the gross domestic product reached 10 percent in the year’s first quarter against 5.7 percent in 2002. «It is encouraging that long-term loans are increasing at the expense of short-term ones, reducing the risk of a bank crisis. As money offered rose by 13 percent in 2004 with the increase in deposits, we can say that the rise in loans does not exercise strong inflationary pressures,» the embassy’s Economic and Commercial Office suggests.