ECONOMY

NBG opens in Belgrade

BELGRADE – The National Bank of Greece (NBG) will be looking to exploit opportunities created by the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia’s ongoing privatization program and developments in the capital markets, Theodoros Karatzas, its governor, said yesterday at the inauguration of the bank’s new branch in Belgrade. «We plan to participate in investment opportunities arising from privatization procedures, as well as changes in the capital markets in Yugoslavia,» he stressed. NBG is the first Greek bank to venture into the country. The Belgrade outlet will offer basic retail and corporate banking services, such as deposit accounts and foreign exchange transactions in the initial stage. It will also seek to target Yugoslav subsidiaries of Greek companies with credit facilities, documentary collections related to export and import activities and foreign exchange transactions. Karatzas said «it’s not impossible that the new branch would be profitable in the first year of operation.» Results however will depend on external factors as well. The NBG head said the bank’s latest venture underlined its outward-looking perspective, a philosophy which is still very stable despite its recent failure to close a merger deal with Alpha Bank, Greece’s largest privately owned bank. «We continue to look outward and are still interested in increasing our size, despite the failed deal with Alpha Bank,» he said. Greek media reports in recent days have suggested that NBG is pursuing preliminary talks with Piraeus Bank, the fifth largest bank in Greece, over a possible merger, although there has been no official confirmation from either side. In addition to the Belgrade branch, NBG is also present in FYROM, Bulgaria, Romania and Albania, underlining its expansion into the Balkans in the last three years. It took a 70.2-percent stake in FYROM’s Stopanska Banka which has a network of 99 units countrywide in 2000. It bought a 90-percent share in United Bulgarian Bank in July 2000, giving it access to a network of 145 branches in Bulgaria. NBG is represented by a branch in Bucharest and four branches in Albania. It also has outlets in 12 other countries. Karatzas said the bank’s overseas branches currently account for 10 percent of total revenues. The objective is to increase this to 20 percent by 2004.