ECONOMY

National Bank eyes SMEs

National Bank wants to do business with small and medium-sized enterprises. And bank head Theodoros Karatzas wants to make sure that the companies know of the opportunities available at the country’s largest bank. Karatzas has been taking his message to the capital’s suburbs as well as the provinces in recent weeks. Following roadshows in Thessaloniki, Serres, Drama and Kavala two weeks ago, the chief executive continued his mission in Thrace on Thursday. National Bank’s aggressive move into the SMEs market underlines the potential in this sector. Considered one of the most promising in terms of growth and profitability, the market is also characterized by its low level of penetration. National Bank is estimated to have a 15-percent market share against 23 percent for Alpha Bank and 22 percent for EFG Eurobank Ergasias. National Bank will be counting on its large network to increase its market share. Customers in this sector are generally considered to be more interested in convenience and quality service than pricing. «Our objective is to help small companies become bigger,» Karatzas told an audience of small and medium-sized enterprises in the northern Greek region yesterday. He said National Bank has launched a series of products and services targeted at this sector. It recently set up a corporate credit division offering traditional financing services such as leasing and factoring. He claimed the bank has had enormous success with its open loans for professionals, with the number of applications increasing fourfold in two and a half months. Karatzas said businesses can also apply to the bank’s venture capital subsidiary for funding. He predicted lending to SMEs would triple in the next two and a half years. Ankara hopes that will encourage a return of capital from abroad to help Turkey achieve a 3-percent economic growth target this year after a 9.4-percent contraction in 2001.