ECONOMY

Eurobank turns to Egypt

EFG Eurobank is eyeing Egypt’s Bank of Alexandria as part of its international expansion strategy, it said yesterday, just three days after clinching a deal to buy Turkey’s Tekfenbank. «The acquisition of Tekfenbank in Turkey complements and does not finish the… growth strategy of Eurobank beyond the five countries where it is currently present. Other cases are being explored,» Chief Executive Nikos Nanopoulos told reporters. «We have expressed interest in the Bank of Alexandria in Egypt,» he said. The Egyptian government has said it is planning to privatize the Bank of Alexandria and is seeking to sell a 75-80 percent stake to a strategic investor. Eurobank agreed on Monday to buy 70 percent of Tekfenbank to become the second Greek lender to venture into Turkey and extending its reach beyond Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Albania and Poland. «Egypt is a different market to the Balkans but a large one in terms of population. An acquisition there could turn into a growth driver in the medium term,» said an analyst who did not want to be named. «Eurobank wants to become a regional player.» Eurobank, with a market value of 10 billion euros, expects its network abroad to exceed the number of its branches in Greece by the end of this year, contributing 20 percent of group profit and 30 percent of revenues by 2009. Foreign operations contributed 12.5 percent to overall group profit in the first quarter of 2006. «We are making careful steps abroad, implementing the business model we developed in Greece,» Nanopoulos said. «We try not to overpay for what we buy.» He said the group’s foreign network will grow to 530 branches by the end of 2006 compared to 370 in Greece. Credit expansion in the five countries outside Greece where Eurobank is currently present is much stronger compared to the European Union’s average rate of 8.4 percent. It is over 50 percent in Romania and Turkey, 44 percent in Serbia, 34 percent in Bulgaria and 21 percent in Poland, he said. (Reuters)