ECONOMY

Atlantic Bank set to expand in short term

NEW YORK – Atlantic Bank, the National Bank of Greece’s US subsidiary, appears ready to reach its lofty goals. The bank’s healthy capital base, the result of several years of profitability, is paving the way for its expansion. This expansion will be based on acquisitions, like the recent one of Yonkers Finance. In two years’ time, Atlantic will expand from 20 branches to 50, almost all in the New York City metropolitan area. After all, the bank is exclusively focused on the East Coast; the loss-generating Chicago branch has been closed. The above goals were outlined to reporters yesterday, at the bank’s Manhattan headquarters by Governor Theodoros Karatzas, Deputy Governor Apostolos Tamvakakis, the general manager of international operations, Agis Leopoulos, and Atlantic President Thomas O’Brien. Karatzas underlined the significance of Atlantic’s contribution to the group’s profits at a time of declining profits at home. He said Atlantic’s profit for the whole of 2002 is forecast at 51-52 million euros, or about 75 to 80 percent of all group profits. The acquisition of Yonkers Finance was part of the bank’s strategy to widen its client base beyond Greek Americans, Karatzas said. With $2.7 billion in assets, Atlantic Bank is among the top 100 US banks, and 20th among the 100 banks based in New York State. It has been operating for 75 years and National Bank is still its sole shareholder. It has recently expanded into mortgages, after offering exclusively retail banking services. Atlantic Bank not only withstood the shock of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York but significantly improved its finances thanks to a program of severe cuts in expenses. Asked by Kathimerini if they feared a «property bubble» similar to the one afflicting the stock markets, and especially technology stocks, Atlantic’s top management replied that a crisis similar to the one that hit the US real estate market in 1989-90 was highly unlikely. The property market had, indeed, risen to record highs after investors had invested their profits from the stock exchange there but the market seems to be going through a soft landing, as commercial property prices and rents are slowly declining from record levels. Atlantic’s management was also confident that a likely attack on Iraq would not greatly affect either retail banking or mortgages but that the market could go through a leveling-off period.