BUDAPEST. APRIL 27. INTERFAX C.N
TRAL EUROPE - OTP Bank, Hungary's leading bank, could buy as many as three smaller banks in Russia in the next one to one-and-a-half years, the bank's management said on Friday.
"These would be transactions of around a few ten million dollars each, concerning regional banks with between 20 and 40 branches," OTP's Deputy CEO Laszlo Wolf, who is also the chairman of OTP's Russian bank Investsberbank, told reporters at a press conference.
He added that there are already specific acquisition targets, but talks are not yet at a stage where any further information could be disclosed.
The goal of the transactions would be to increase the sales network where OTP could offer mortgage loans to consumers, which is considered one of the primary growth areas of the Russian operation.
OTP acquired Investsberbank last year for EUR 375 mln.
Regarding potential other foreign acquisitions that could take place in 2008, Chairman and CEO Sandor Csanyi said that the bank is considering at present two or three new countries which OTP could enter, but did not provide any details. The group is currently present in eight countries outside Hungary - Slovakia, Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, Romania, Bulgaria, Ukraine and Russia.
"We are not planning any new share issues to finance potential acquisitions in 2008, with the transactions to be paid for from the bank's profits," said Csanyi. "Of course, the situation would be different if we decide to acquire a very big bank, but it is far too early to tell yet."
Wolf noted, however, that the bank plans to raise some cash this year to finance further business growth, including a bond issue of between EUR 0.5-1 bln in the first half of the year, and another capital market transaction in H2.
Regarding risks to the group's EUR 2 bln pre-tax profit target for 2010, Csanyi said that there are always risks, some which cannot be estimated in advance.
"There could be risks regarding economic growth in Russia, or a spike in oil or gas prices, while political uncertainty in Ukraine could also cause potential problems," he said. "There also risks concerning the Hungarian economy, but we calculated with this in our plans."