Geniki plans to double

French bank Societe Generale, Europe’s third-largest in retail banking, is expanding its network and activity in Greece through its listed subsidiary, Geniki Bank. Jacques Tournebize, Geniki’s CEO, said yesterday that the bank is expanding its network to 150 branches by the first half of next year from 132 today. From next month, it begins electronic banking operations via the Internet as well as phone banking. It also intends to use new innovative distribution channels. The bank’s target is to more than double its share in the Greek banking market, from 2 percent today to 5 percent. In 2006, Tournebize said, Geniki will focus on mortgage credit, which last year increased by 32 percent above the average; in the last quarter of 2005 the growth rate in this domain reached 80 percent over the same period in 2004. Emphasis will also go toward corporate banking, focusing on large as well as small and medium-sized companies, and using its comparative advantage over other banks of the strong network of Societe Generale in Europe. Tournebize further announced that the rehabilitation of Geniki Bank, acquired by Societe Generale in March 2004, had been completed in 2005 and is expected to show moderate profits in 2006 thanks to the number of significant steps it has taken. He then referred to the importance the bank places on training its staff, on which more than 3 million euros a year is invested. The French banker openly voiced his support for the extension of bank opening hours into the evenings and on Saturdays, noting that this is now common practice in Europe. In France, he said, the first branch to open on Saturdays did so 20 years ago, in 1986. He added that banks need to operate with optimum service to the client as their priority and that the extension of opening hours will also create new jobs. Finally, Tournebize argued that Greek banks are overvalued, as their price per book value (P/BV) index is far higher than the European average, that is between 2 and 3.

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